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The Prince and the King

The Prince and the King

Liverpool, Manchester and Glasgow, to name but a few, are places that automatically spring to mind when talking of boxing hotbeds. The town of Coatbridge, which lies 8.5 miles east of Glasgow City Centre, is known to only a few in the know as the hidden gem of Scottish boxing.

Fighting comes naturally to many of the towns inhabitants, but it isn't until that born fighter mentality is paired with discipline and guidance, that the qualities required to make it in the fight game are unearthed.

The man many turned to in the town, to master these qualities was Rab Bannan. Rab, trainer at the famous Barn ABC was also philosopher, father figure and teacher to many who entered the doors of the Barn Boxing Club. Instilling discipline and self belief in equal measure was Rab's masterstroke, and in doing so allowed his young charges to express themselves in the ring.

Little did Rab know that one of those young charges would go on to become King of World boxing. Ricky Burns went on to become Scotland's only three weight world champion. Few would have guessed that the shy, skinny kid that Rab first encountered in the mid 90's would achieve such greatness. Back in his amateur days, Ricky would travel to many shows with Rab, there was no planned fight but he would take his kit with him "just in case" there was a dropout or no show, stepping in if required. Maybe this is why, at age 38, Ricky still steps into the squared ring to ply his trade, he loves fighting.

On December 18th 2021, Ricky stepped into the ring for his 53rd professional fight. A career that has seen him take on some of the greats and travel the world doing what he loves. His comeback, after two years out due to the coronavirus outbreak, saw him travel to Sunderland to take on Argentinian Emiliano Dominguez over 10 rounds. A spirited performance saw Ricky win by unanimous decision against a very tough opponent. The Peter Pan of boxing shows no sign of slowing down, Coatbridge salutes you Ricky.

Also on the card that night was Mark McKeown, who many have tipped to be the heir apparent to the King of Coatbridge. McKeown, or Sparky as he is widely known around the town, brings a fan friendly style, loves a tear up but can box if the occasion calls for it. Mckeown's opponent that night was tough Mexican Uriel Lopez.

Lopez had shared the ring with countryman Emanuel Navarrete the previous year. Two weight world champion Naverrete and current number 1 in the featherweight division dispatched  Lopez in round 6 of a scheduled 10. It was a great bit of matchmaking to gauge McKeown's prospects of mixing it with the best in the division. It's fair to say those prospects look good after what turned out to be fight off the night. Commentating for Probellum, Nick Peet said "If there's been a better 6 rounds this year in the U.K, I'll be surprised."

From the first bell it was clear both men had no plans in taking a backwards step much to the frustration of McKeown's coach Barry Clark. Although Clark was demanding more movement from his fighter, McKeown was in the driving seat in a real barnstormer of a fight.

The future looks bright for McKeown as he has the skills and mindset to take him to the top. Along with top promotional company MTK and a great training team at Kier Hardie, not to mention training partner and mentor Ricky Burns.

The Coatbridge fans don't have to wait too long to see McKeown back in action, he's been added to the Josh Taylor v Jack Catterall undercard on 26th February at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. The fight is to be screened live on Sky Sports in the U.K and ESPN+ in the United States, in what promises to be a very entertaining evening of boxing.