Craig McEwan Ditches the Wildcard and Returns to Scotland

By Mick McNeill: After a stint of five years in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Freddy Roach at the Wildcard Gym in Hollywood, Edinburgh born Southpaw Craig McEwan has returned to his native land in attempt to rebuild what was until recently, an unblemished career under the guidance of the glamorous Golden Boy Promotions.

World proven trainer Billy Nelson will now take the reigns from Roach with McEwan seeking to revitalize his career by joining the same regime that steered Ricky Burns to WBO Super featherweight glory and John Simpson to British and Commonwealth title honors.

The 5 year professional career of the man from Wester Hailes has been an impressive one, racking up 19 wins from 20 contests, including a unanimous decision victory over the highly regarded Brian Vera before becoming unstuck in a 10th round knockout loss to rival Celt Andy Lee. In A fascinating fight that was razor thin on the scorecards, Lee looked the fresher fighter going down the stretch and rallied, cold cocking McEwan with a left hook that ended his night in bitter disappointment.

McEwan moved to Los Angeles with an impressive amateur resume which boasted an almost unheard of total of 376 amateur contests, winning multiple Scottish titles, a collection of international tournaments including a Gold in the European junior championships and a Commonwealth games Bronze medal at senior level.

His credentials in the unpaid ranks would however have done little to intimidate the fierce selection of sparring partners he was to encounter in the wildcard. McEwan admirably put a lot on the line to pursue his dream. One has to wonder however how much of Freddy Roach’s attention was directed purely towards fighters like Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan, perhaps leaving talented but less touted up and comers like McEwan to fend for themselves and gather dust in the gym and gain bad habits.

Speaking to Billy Nelson this week, it was obvious that he identified serious holes in Craig’s previous schooling and sees flaws in which he certainly feels capable of rectifying. Nelson explained; “I don’t believe Craig was being coached properly over at the Wildcard. He was almost left to train himself a great deal of the time. After only training for a very short period of time in my Gym, I can see improvements both in his fitness and from a technical point of view.”

The wildcard Gym is renowned for its wealth of hard sparring which no doubt paid dividends in McEwan’s development. He regularly shared the ring with the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Antonio Margarito and Pacquiao himself. Whilst names like these are hard to come by on these shores, Nelson feels that there is quality, competitive sparring in reaching distance from his institution in Shotts, near Glasgow. “Obviously the Sparring over at the Wildcard is some of the best in the world, I don’t doubt that. People forget though that there are some fighters in Britain who can match some of the best in the states. As long as we travel for sparring with the best fighters across Britain, there is no reason we can’t replicate a similar level to what Craig experienced over there.”

With both Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker on the Horizon of the world title scene, a domestic clash with either of those two would certainly make sense. Barker recently defended his European title and Macklin is in line to fight Felix Sturm for the WBA “Super” World Middleweight Title (not to be confused with the more legitimate WBA Super Middleweight Title). Nelson is keen for a clash with either of those two; “ I’m confident that Craig would beat both Macklin and Barker handily. Against Lee, Craig was let down by his stamina. That won’t be a problem from now on as I feel that the conditioning training carried out in my gym is second to none”.

It’s easy to feel confident in Nelson’s boasts when looking at performances of John Simpson and Ricky Burns who both have proven to have remarkable engines title fights with Simpson beating Martin Lynsday to the punch for twelve rounds to win the Lonsdale Belt outright ,and Burns taking Roman Martinez into the trenches in what was a candidate for 2010’s Fight Of The Year.

Nelson’s stable of talent at the Fighting Scot’s Gym is growing into what could be considered the best in the UK. With the addition of McEwan to the already establishe Burn’s and Simpson, not to mention prospects like Paul Appleby, Commonwealth Games Bronze medalist Steven Simmons, Featherweight Mick Roberts and middleweight David Brophy, the former understudy of Peter Harrison has built a force to be reckoned with.

As for McEwan, It would be ludicrous for anyone to imagine that the five years Craig spent in the states were a waste of the limited time a Fighter has to leave his mark on the sport. He’ll no doubt have learned a lot from his experiences, both as an athlete and as a person. Hopefully he can employ what ever knowledge he’ll gain in this second installment of his career and cooperate it with the valuable learning’s he gathered a cross the pond to achieve a life long ambition of reaching the top of the sport.

Article posted on 06.06.2011

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