It’s that time of year again when we all receive pairs of Wilson socks, put on a stone from living exclusively off chocolate and bevy, and every boxing media outlet publishes its annual awards. It’s our turn, as our three team members share their reflections on an exciting year for Scottish boxing. It’s been a privilege to cover the sport this year, and we’d like to thank everyone who has followed our coverage and given us their time.

 

Allen Payne:

Fighter of the year

When talking about Scottish ‘Fighter of the Year’, there can only be one winner, The Tartan Tornado, Josh Taylor. Currently Scotland’s only world champion and winner of the Muhammad Ali trophy from the World Boxing Super Series. With talks of an undisputed fight with Jose Ramirez next year, he could well be our ‘Fighter of the year’ for a few more.

Fight of the year

Despite thoroughly enjoying Lee McGregor Vs Kash Farooq. I’m going to have to go with the World Boxing Super Series final between Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis which I attended in London. When the tournament was announced last year, I was confident Josh would make it to the final and set out to try make all stages of the tournament, although I thought it might be a bit unrealistic given the final was in Jeddah last year, then even more so when we were lucky to get the Quarter and Semi Finals in Glasgow. But when London was announced, it had to be done and the ‘away day’ was set. The weekend, the trip, the venue, the seats, the fight and possibly most importantly, the result, makes it my ‘fight of the year’. To be honest, I was gutted after the Ricky Burns fight didn’t go the way I had hoped, then Chisora fight ending as it had just heated up, the pressure for the Taylor fight to deliver was high. But it did.

What a fight, both men barely taking a backwards step, trading instead of holding for the full 12 rounds. Incredible fight with both boxers deserving applause. Having seen Taylor win his Commonwealth Gold, at the Hydro in 2014 and followed his full career, that night just felt like an incredible round up, except it wasn’t and the journey continues and I can’t wait to see what’s next…

KO of the year

In May 2016, I witnessed Canelo brutally knockout Amir Khan in the sixth round, live in Vegas. After the fight, I surmised I might never see such a devastating knockout live and I was okay with that. This year, Martin Harkin made sure that wasn’t the case as he sent Ally Black to the canvas, in the fourth round, with a double left hook that his favourite fighter Tommy Morrison would have been proud of. Instead of the cheap seats of the T-Mobile Arena, this time I was meters away from the action. The atmosphere dropped as quickly as Ally did, as the moment went from an explosion of excitement to genuine worry as his opponent lay on the canvas for numerous minutes. Thankfully, Ally Black left the ring on his feet and all were able to enjoy the knockout for what it was as Martin Harkin announced himself to the British Welterweight scene with a statement.

Prospect of the year

The top prospect of 2019 for me would have to be Nathaniel Collins, who picked up the Celtic Featherweight title in only his 6th bout. His previous bouts against journeyman, had left some questioning his power, however Nate assured when he had someone come to fight it would be a different story. That he did as he faced off against fellow undefeated Scotsman, Monty Ogilvie for the title. Whilst some had expected the bout to be close, Nathaniel put on an extremely dominant performance, dropping Monty 5 times before the bout was stopped in the fifth round. At only 23 years old and his first title round his waist, I will be looking forward to watching what 2020 brings for ‘The Nightmare’

Moment of the year

2019 has produced some great moments for myself, most of which are detailed above. Although, it’s away from the bright lights of packed arenas witnessing unification bouts on Sky Box Office, my pick would have to be: witnessing Martin Harkin win the Celtic title. Martin was my first interview and it all kicked off my involvement in covering boxing. Since then, he’s become a mate and I’ve witnessed a frustrating run for him with numerous call-offs and cancellations as he chased the Celtic title. Throughout the whole time, he remained determined and focussed and to see him finally get his hands on that elusive title, in such an incredible fashion, will be hard to top.

Coach of the Year

Coaching probably takes as much dedication as the boxers and unfortunately most still have to juggle fulltime jobs, family life along with their focus on the fighters. My ‘Coach of the year’ would have to be Joe Ham Snr. Who is not only working within the amateur scene but also a booming professional stable with his son Joe Ham, Nathaniel Collins, Lewis Benson, Regan Glackin, Stewart Burt and Reece McFadden. He seems to have instilled a team mentality into the lads which is evident in their training and support of each other. At every show, where one has featured, it can be assured you will see the others in team t-shirts there to support their stablemate. 2019 albeit a mixed bag of results, hasn’t been short of opportunities, with Joe in a title fight on Sky Sports, Lewis supposed to feature in the MTK tournament (although it fell through due to licence issues) Nathaniel headlining a card and picking up his first title, Regan and Reece pushing on in the early stages in their career and Stewart potentially fighting in a British title Eliminator next year – 2020 could be exciting year for the Hayfield mob.

Ones to watch in 2020

The boxer I will be keeping an eye on next year will be Craig Morgan. Having just turned 20, he has eased himself into his first 12 months of professional boxing but I don’t think he’s had to get out of first gear in any of his fights. Next year he will be turning 21 and therefore eligible for domestic titles and I’m looking forward to seeing him step into that mix.

I’m also particularly looking forward to watching the Scottish Welterweight scene. The British circular announced that both Celtic Champion, Martin Harkin and Scottish Champion, Stewart Burt could be in British title eliminator contests in the first quarter of 2020. Aberdeen Welterweight, Dean Sutherland is scheduled to return in February against Basi Razaq (8-1-1) which could prove to be an interesting contest. It would be great if we could see some kind of round robin between the Scottish Welterweights but with Dean previously mentioning the possibility of a Commonwealth eliminator, even the prospect of having them get a shot at some of the big domestic titles will be exciting! And hey, maybe this time next year, we will be hoping for an all Scottish showdown for both Commonwealth and British belts, as we were treated to this year.

 

Jamie Sokolowski:

Fighter of the year

Josh Taylor is now considered by many to be one of the top ten pound-for-pound fighters in the world. It’s been some time since any Scot has been held in such high regard. The Edinburgh man has been guided perfectly by his team, fighting relatively high-level opponents from the start of his career, incrementally getting tougher and learning the professional game. That sensible progression culminated in a perfect 2019 with Taylor outclassing a powerful and durable Ivan Baranchyk, and then mustering all of his strength, intelligence and versatility to edge fellow elite super-lightweight Regis Prograis. By unifying two world titles and winning the World Boxing Super Series in 16 fights, Josh Taylor is Scotland’s fighter of the year.

Taylor will hopefully learn the old cliché that being a world champion is a responsibility in and out the ring, learn from his recent trouble with the law, and continue to stride towards becoming undisputed champion in 2020.

Fight of the year

Glasgow’s Kash Farooq and Edinburgh’s Lee McGregor delivered one of the most exciting domestic fights in a generation, putting their respective British and Commonwealth titles on the line early in their careers. Farooq’s movement, timing and variety won him the first half of the contest, while McGregor’s tenacity and courage saw him finish strongly, both men throwing right up to the final bell. Despite controversial score-cards, and continued debate over the deserved winner, it was a brilliant spectacle for the individual fighters and Scottish boxing as a whole. Weight issues, diverging promotional strategies, and other factors may stop an immediate rematch, but it’s a fight Scottish boxing fans would love to see again.

KO of the year

There’s a generation of promising boxers emerging in Scotland, but we’re perhaps light on heavy hitting one-punch knock out artists. Kynoch Boxing’s heavyweights Jay McFarlane and Kaseem Saleem both scored impressive knock-outs of journeymen. But knock out of the year surely belongs to Martin Harkin whose perfectly timed left hook rendered fellow Scot Ally Black unconscious to win the Celtic welterweight title. In terms of ability and quality of opposition, Harkin’s devastating shot was Scotland’s most impressive in 2019.

Prospect of the year

The future of Aberdeen’s Dean Sutherland excites me as a Scottish boxing fan. He has marketability, speaks well, understands social media and has a strong team – from his coaches and sponsors to his family, they appear to be a unified, supportive unit. But, mostly importantly, he’s demonstrated genuine ability. Sutherland has natural, fluid movement, fast hands and is developing his power. His record improved to 9-0 this year and includes both credible, experienced journeyman and fighters with winning records. The highlight of his young professional career came in May when Sutherland outpointed Keane McMahon, a decorated Irish amateur, and all round hard man, to win the BUI Celtic title. With ambition and dedication to the sport, I can see the Sutherland going far.

Moment of the year

It’s difficult to argue with Josh Taylor being crowned unified world champion and World Boxing Super Series winner against an exceptional opponent in Prograis. That moment will go down in Scottish boxing history.

I also thoroughly enjoyed Nathaniel Collins’ victory over Monty Ogilivie to win the Celtic featherweight title in October. Witnessing Collins being lifted and cheered by dozens of his supporters after obliterating a credible domestic rival was exhilarating. We hope to see more of these types of contests in 2020.

But there’s a strong case for Hannah Rankin having the most special moment of 2019. Rankin has no amateur experience and has boxed for as little as five years, progressing from white collar novice to active professional in the blink of an eye. She’s attempted to make up for this deficit of experience by training alongside and sparring the most gifted women boxers, and taking on some of the biggest names, such as Alicia Napoleon and Claressa Shields, in the sport. Those two world title attempts were brave but unsuccessful. Yet, Rankin persevered, which is characteristic of her. There’s no claim that Rankin is an exceptional talent with extensive pedigree, she might not be a Josh Taylor equivalent, but there’s very few more courageous, hungry and fearless people in boxing, creating and grasping opportunities. Rankin captured a version of a world title in the summer, outpointing America’s Sarah Curran, in an emotional night in Paisley. Hannah became the first ever Scot to win a world title in the women’s game, and is a terrific ambassador of herself, women’s boxing and Scotland.

Coach of the year

Craig Dickson deserves huge credit for the development of Kash Farooq. The Glaswegian has transformed from a young prospect into a powerful, intelligent and versatile boxer. Physical strength has been added to his game with Kash stopping two of his opponents in 2019. It’s likely last year the team recognised that if Kash wants to operate at the highest level he will have to improve his power, and they did that successfully, adding a vicious side to an already impressive arsenal. Dickson guided Farooq to winning and defending the British title, making history as he became the first British Asian boxer to do so. He’s my coach of the year.

Ones to watch

It might sound silly because he is no prospect, but Kash Farooq is entering a new chapter in his career. He has developed physically and mentally as a fighter, demonstrated his abilities against Lee McGregor to a nationwide audience, winning new fans even in defeat, and has now signed to Matchroom with its association with Sky and DAZN, some of the biggest platforms in the world. 2020 will be a significant year for Farooq.

And we can’t forget Lee McGregor who has received some unfair criticism since the Farooq fight. British and Commonwealth champion within eight contests, only 22, and with backing from MTK Global and a solid team in Sheffield, McGregor will be pushing for a European title as soon as possible.

 

Craig Cameron

Fighter of the year

It was great to be ringside to witness Josh Taylor become unified champion of the world against a top fighter in Regis Prograis. I feel that we are watching a fighter than could be potentially the greatest Scotland has ever produced. He has proven that he thrives on the big stages and for me is the best at 140lbs on the planet. For those reasons he is my fighter of the year.

Fight of the year

Kash Farooq v Lee McGregor was a great fight that I had been looking forward to for a long time. So evenly matched it was such a hard fight to call. I believe that Kash won the fight but we can’t take anything away from Lee who is a British and Commonwealth champion after 8 professional fights. Both fighters I believe will fight for world honours one day and are a credit to Scottish boxing.

However, my fight of the year has to be Ahmed Mweva v Martin Taylor. A real ding dong from the opening bell to the last and I’m delighted to see the rematch is booked in for February. I remember Martin being emotional after losing the fight due to leaving everything in the ring and not getting the result he wanted. However, for me Ahmed won the fight and is certainly a boxer going places.

KO of the year

It has to be Martin Harkin against Ally Black. We all as boxing fans crave a knockout and certainly got one from Martin that made a statement to those thinking about fighting Harkin in 2020 such as Dean Sutherland and Stewart Burt.

It was a very heavy knockout that I haven’t witnessed the likes of at any other Scottish shows in 2019.

Prospect of the year

Tough one for me to pick but it would probably be between Dean Sutherland and Nathaniel Collins.

Dean capturing the BUI title with an excellent victory vs a top amateur in Keane. Hopefully we see Dean fighting Stewart Burt or Martin Harkin in 2020.

Nathaniel capturing the Celtic title with a very dominant display against Monty Ogilvie. We were lucky to have Nate on the pod and you just get the feeling from meeting him that he has the drive and dedication to be a success. The fact he was complaining in his post fight interviews about fighting journeyman tells you everything you need to know about him. He wants the big fights and I believe he will be involved in more big fights in 2020.

Moment of the year

Personal one for me as a fighter who has helped Gloves Red a lot is Ross Murray. To witness Ross becoming WBC Silver International Champion was great and it also happened to be my first post fight interview. Ross has been in big fights in the past but never at his natural weight division of light flyweight. He did that night against the tough John Chuwa but showed his class and fulfilled a lifelong ambition of winning a WBC strap.

Coach of the year

Tough one to pick again and unfortunately going to sit on the fence for this one. For me, Billy Nelson, Craig Dickson and Joe Ham Snr are all excellent coaches and a credit to Scottish boxing.

All have had their successes in 2019 and I look forward to seeing what their fighters produce in 2020.

Ones to watch in 2020

I think Willy Hutchinson will be the one to watch in 2020. One of the best amateurs Scotland has produced and with the guidance of Dominic Ingle I can only seen it ending in great success in the professional ranks. Willy is rubbing shoulders at the famous Ingle gym with the likes of Billy Joe Saunders, Kell Brook, Kid Galahad and Liam Williams on a daily basis which can only be good for the young scot.