By Terence Dooley
Edinburgh’s Craig McEwan has returned to his Scottish stomping ground after a career spent honing his talent at L.A.’s Wildcard Gym under the watchful eye of star trainer Freddie Roach. McEwan had only travelled to Roach’s gym for a training holiday; his ability prompted the trainer to take McEwan to Golden Boy Promotions head honcho Oscar De La Hoya, who signed the youngster on Roach’s recommendation.
McEwan, 30, turned professional at the MGM Grand in September 2006 with a single round win over George Nicholas Montalvo and motored to 19-0 before losing a thriller against Andy Lee in March 2011 – Lee turned it on late to register tenth-round stoppage in that one. A sixth-round stoppage loss to Peter Quillin in November of the same year prompted a switch back to Scotland, where McEwan returned to winning ways with a decision over Paul Morby at his home city’s Meadow Bank Sports Centre in April.
Mcewan, 20-2 (10), caught up with BoxingScene to throw his name into the British 160lb mix and outline his plans for the coming years.
BoxingScene: What brings you back to the U.K., Craig?
Craig McEwan: “I am still under contract with Golden Boy until July, but I have come home to see what there is here for me. I spoke with [Matchroom’s] Eddie Hearn [Writer’s note: Hearn has confirmed to BoxingScene that McEwan was in the frame for Darren Barker’s return, but the bout has been put on the backburner for the time being]. I just want to be in the mix. I want to be among the British scene because there’s good fights for all of us.”
“We’ve not had any really big rivalries take place in the ring yet. It would be a good idea for a promoter to get us guys together. You’ve got [Matthew] Macklin, [Martin] Murray and [Darren] Barker who have all fought for world titles and are at the top of the division. Then you’ve got me, [Grzegorz] Proksa and Kerry Hope, who put in a great effort against [EBU boss] Grzegorz Proksa. There’s also Andy Lee and other guys in the mix.”
“I’ve done the American thing. It didn’t quite go to plan, but I’ve worked with guys like Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright, Vernon Forrest and [Julio Cesar] Chavez Junior, so I’ve learned a lot. I think things are open in Britain and I’d jump at the chance to fight Proska because he’s awkward but beatable.”
“My experience in America with Freddie [Roach] is something I’ll always look to, but I want fights here in Britain now. I suppose it is now down to the powers that be. I’m not the type of guy to call this guy or that guy out.”
BS: The British middleweight scene is red hot right now – have you come home at just the right time?
McEwan: “Yeah, but now I just want to go out and do my job. It is frustrating because I think there’s guys I can beat here who are getting great opportunities and I’ve got a good fan base here – I was really surprised by how many people followed me on Youtube and other websites. I have learned so much in America. I want to put it into practice over here.”
BS: You were right in the fight with Andy Lee before it all came apart in the tenth and final round. What are your recollections of that night?
McEwan: “I couldn’t believe it. Andy told me he didn’t know how it happened, he said he was beat and just did what he had to do. Andy hurt me a few times in the first round, so I tried to keep away from that left hand of his, but didn’t have the experience to take a breather and see that last round out. I went a hundred miles an hour, and he caught me.”
“I thought I could go out in that round, try to avoid getting hit and win it on points, or I could do what had been winning me the fight by backing him up. Andy caught me with a great shot and down I went. I was gutted, obviously, and it took me a while to get over it. I learned from it and can come again.”
“A loss used to be the end of the world, but when you’ve got a variety of good fighters people lose to each other. If the promoters can sit down at the table, which I know they don’t do often, and put us all in together then they’d create a really strong tournament. It would put the middleweights back on the maps. Then the winner could fight the American winner or even a whole team of middleweights taking on U.S. middleweights.”
BS: You sound excited by the idea of a British 160lb Super Six, Seven or Eight.
McEwan: “I’m here in this division to try to do something. We’ve got a bunch of guys who would produce great fights for TV. We’ve got fans who want to see us all fight in great fights. Let’s just fight and get on with it. Martin Murray has a title, the rest of us don’t, so put Martin in first and see how we all get on fighting each other. I’m talking on a bit here, but it is possible.”
BS: How did the U.S. connection come about?
McEwan: “I went for there a training holiday, Freddie got hold of me and asked what I was doing because I was holding my own in sparring and he told Golden Boy to talk to me then told them I could do something with their help. Oscar [De La Hoya] said that Freddie’s word was good enough for him, so they signed me – it was unbelievable.”
“Then I’m in the Wildcard gym and looking around at these top fighters, sparring Winky Wright and Chavez Junior, but I’ve got to say that I learned the most from Hopkins – he is very smart and crafty. Hopkins would spar four-minute rounds and that was an experience. Then Winky took me under his ring and taught me a lot about his jab. It was fantastic because he’d be a distance away then tag you with it.”
BS: Working in the same gym as Manny Pacquiao must have been something, and can you also sum up the Freddie Roach experience for us?
McEwan: “Training alongside Manny was great. Manny asked me to teach him Scottish, so then he started thinking he was William Wallace and all that. I got on great with Freddie, what you see is what you get with Freddie. Freddie is focussed on what he does and you can’t shut him up if he likes you because he has so many stories to tell.”
“Freddie’s also calm in the corner, he doesn’t ramble on. He gives you a drink and calms you down then gives you bits of advice for the next round. Then you’ll do what he says and boom, the fight is over, so you’ll think, ‘Thanks for that, Freddie!’. I have mates there so I will go back there to see people. My American dream isn’t over.”
BS: You mentioned Vernon Forrest, what stood out when working with “The Viper”?
McEwan: “Vernon was very cute. He gave me a chance to spar him and it opened my eyes a little. In fact, I’ve been through it all in sparring over there, so it was a real welcome to the pros because if someone did something to you then Freddie would say, ‘Do it back!’.”
“I’d encourage any young boxer to go there [the Wildcard] for a month. Do some sparring, because they spar all the time, and that will help you benefit so much. You never know, Freddie might help you get signed up.”
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