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Fighting Talk with Mark McKeown

Fighting Talk with Mark McKeown

CS- Hi Mark. Welcome to the first fighting talk blog by Connelly Sports. Let’s get straight into it. Tell us about your first boxing memory?

MM- My first boxing memories would have been watching Scott Harrison and Ricky Burns on the telly with my Dad in the house. Watching them on their ring walks gave me the buzz to want to emulate them but my Mum never wanted me to box, so I tried running and judo but didn't really take to either. Then I eventually persuaded her to let me try boxing.

CS- So what age did you start boxing and where did it all start?

MM- I was 10 and it started at the Barn boxing club in Coatbridge. I was there for about 7 years.

CS- How did you get on with the famous Rab Bannan?

MM- I got on great with Rab and Bobby McIntyre. Later, when I was in the Scottish set up, I would train with Bobby during the day and spar under Rab at night.

CS- How did training at the barn and training with Scotland work out?

MM- I would train at the barn during the week and head up to Kirkcaldy at the weekend to train with Mike Keane who was the coach with Scotland at the time. We would get put into a hotel and stay for the weekend. There would be other teams from other countries there too, so we would get good sparring. We would train 3 times on a Saturday and twice on a Sunday. It was always fresh, we would have sparring, high performance days. 

CS- It sounds hard going? Was the high performance covering your nutrition and output levels?

MM- It was solid. Just before the commonwealth games they started modernising the set-up and introducing those sorts of things.

CS- From the Barn you moved onto Kier Hardie boxing club, what was the thought process for making the move?

MM- When I was at the Barn, Barry (coach at Kier Hardie) used to brings lads over to the barn to spar with me. Going back farther than that I remember boxing in a Forgewood show against Ireland and meeting him then and got on well and I knew he was a good coach. From then I kept an eye out for how his boys where doing. Towards the end of my time at the Barn I didn't have many people to spar with and just thought I needed to change things up. A lecturer (Gerry) at my college was also a coach at Kier Hardie so I arranged a session through him to see how it would go. After the first session we gelled and it felt like the right fit.

CS- Tell me more about your amateur career, how many fights did you have?

 MM- I had about 82-83 fights. I had my first Scottish international in 2010 and travelled all over the world with the Scotland squad. Places like Bosnia, Armenia, France, Russia, Macedonia, Australia and Portugal for warm weather training. My first international was in a tournament in Bosnia and I won a silver getting beat off a French guy in the final. After that I won the British, then I won the Celtic title on the Isle of Man.

CS- There was a lot of talent on the Scotland Squad at that time, tell us about some of your team-mates who are now Pro's.

MM- There was some real talent- we had Josh Taylor, Joe Ham, Kieran Smith. Grant Quigley turned Pro but I don't think he's coming back.

CS- Who was the standout back then?

MM- Josh Taylor, without a doubt.

CS- You just missed out on the Commonwealth Games, tell us about that.

MM- It was a points system accrued from previous tournaments. Myself and Charlie Flynn were both on similar points in our weight class. Connor Law, who's sadly passed away now and Lewis Benson where in similar positions and we were told if we got to the final of the Scottish, the winners would be representing Scotland at the games.

CS- You fought Charlie Flynn in the final then for the Commonwealth place, unfortunately you didn't get the decision. Tell us how you feel the fight went?

MM- The first round I started great, one shot that really stood out was a heavy right hand. The second round was kind of even but I was letting him catch me with stupid shots then the last round I was too one dimensional, following him about and not moving my head and getting caught with tippy-tappy shots and let him steal the fight off me.

CS- Did you feel you had to go for it and that is why you were getting caught?

MM- See in the first round when I caught him heavy, I had that instinct and just started over loading on my shots from there.

CS- If you could fight that fight again, how would you change things?

MM- If I had to fight that fight again after I landed that heavy shot in the first round I would have just boxed like I was in the previous fights coming up to that, pick my shots and take my time.

CS- Charlie went on to win Commonwealth Gold, did you watch it?

MM- I couldn't watch it, I went to Thailand when the games were on.

CS- You took a break from boxing after that fight, were you devastated after that result?

MM- Aye, for a good few years in the amateurs the commonwealth games was my goal. That was all I wanted to do and I was that confident I was going to do it, I hadn't planned for anything after that.

CS- When did you get your hunger back and come back?

MM- I had a fight in 2015 then was off for another year after that.

CS- Did you think that was your career over or did you always believe you would come back?

MM- When I was off for a while I was enjoying doing other stuff and always threatening to go back. I eventually made my mind up and went back and after a few weeks I was feeling good. I decided to go for the western districts with no pressure and I won that. I could see the progress from the first fight to the second one, so I decided to go for the Scottish. When I won that I knew it felt different and I wanted to turn Pro.

CS- You turned Pro in 2019 and signed with MTK, how did that come about?

MM- When I was deciding to turn Pro, Barry (coach) had mentioned it to a few people. Before I knew it Sam Kynoch had said before I make any decisions to have a chat with him, Paul Graham and St Andrews sporting club also showed interest. Danny Vaughn had said to Gary Smith about talking to MTK. I spoke to Danny first and liked the way MTK where putting on frequent shows and giving young up and coming boxers opportunities. So I decided to go with them.

CS- You've had four Pro fights now, how are you finding it?

MM- Good, like I was saying earlier about improving I can see the progression from every fight so far. I've got better every fight and implemented stuff for the Pro game.

CS- You've got three weight world champion Ricky Burns training at the gym with you now. How has that been training and sparring with someone with Ricky’s experience?

MM- Sparring with Ricky has took me to another level. He will tell you stuff that you are doing wrong, then highlight it in the spar. For example if my arms are flaying out he will hit me a few body shots to remind me. I already knew Ricky was a machine but just watching the way he goes about it and his mind-set is inspiring. 

CS- Going forward what's your goals now you've turned Pro?

MM- I would like to go down the traditional route. A lot of people would maybe turn Pro then look to fight people with a good WBC ranking for example, then look to get a WBC international or silver title. But I would like to win the Scottish title, the Celtic title, move onto one of the international titles then definitely the British title then see how it goes from there.

CS- What would your time frame be for achieving those goals?

MM- Ideally I would like a Scottish or Celtic title fight this year.

CS- Who do you look up to at world level in your weight class?

MM- I've always liked Josh Warrington, I always seem to like aggressive come forward fighters. Josh is class and the way he's took his defeat, he's took it like a champion. Wanting to avenge his defeat straight away in a rematch. 

CS- Before we finish up is there anything else you would like to add?

MM- Just to keep an eye out for my career, I hope to be moving up the rankings quickly. I also can't wait to have my crazy support back behind me when the restrictions are lifted.

CS- Thank you Mark for taking the time to chat with us on the first ever fighting talk by Connelly Sports. We look forward to speaking to you again with a few belts around your waist.

MM- Definitely, thank you.