It’s our home Games and we can punch above our weight

Mike Keane, Boxing Scotland national coach, at Kingdom Amateur Boxing Club in Kirkcaldy
Mike Keane, Boxing Scotland national coach, at Kingdom Amateur Boxing Club in Kirkcaldy

A Kirkcaldy man is hoping to lead a team of Scottish boxers to glory at the upcoming Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Mike Keane (54) is preparing for his second Games as Boxing Scotland’s national team coach having led a successful expedition to Delhi in 2010.

Four years ago his team of seven Scots returned from India with three medals – a gold, a silver and a bronze – which was viewed as a fantastic achievement.

But with 10 talented fighters heading for Glasgow, Keane is setting his sights higher this time around.

“Delhi was our best result in a long time, but we’ll be looking to surpass that at our home games,” explained the former Kirkcaldy High School pupil.

“It will be very difficult for us in certain weight categories where we’ll need a favourable draw, but with the home backing we’ll hopefully get a few extra per cent out of them.

“We’re like the Costa Rica of the Commonwealth Games - we’ll be looking to punch above our weight.

“It’s difficult for us to compete with the likes of Russia, Hungary and Kazakhstan, who have thousands of boxers and lots of financial backing.

“But we’ve been working with these boxers for the past four years and they are the best prepared for what they are.

“We’ve got boys that are world class - Josh Taylor was at the Olympics in London - so there’s a good depth of talent in the team.”

Keane’s preparation for the Games has included taking his boxers across the world to various tournaments and training camps.

They have been to Poland, Kazakhstan, Australia, and even stopped off at the Kingdom Boxing Club in Kirkcaldy, which is run by Keane.

“We’ve been to lots of places but we’ve also had a number of camps in Kirkcaldy with the boys staying in the Victoria Hotel,” he said.

“Anyone walking through the Beveridge Park may have seen us doing some sprint training, and some strongman stuff.

“We’ve done a lot of work at the Kingdom gym and hopefully we’ve prepared them as best we can.

“For me it’s a case of getting the programme right so that they are not peaking too early.

“We don’t want them to be at their sharpest until they are at the Games, and the way things are going it looks like they’ll hit their peak on schedule.”

Keane stressed that he does not feel pressure of home expectation, despite having the eyes of the world on his fighters.

“At the end of the day I can say I’ve done the best I could with the boxers I’ve had,” he said.

“But boxing’s a knock-out sport and it’s all about what happens in the ring, and what the judges are looking for.

“The whole world will be looking at our lads in the ring and that has to be an incentive for them.

“Some might go onto become professional or stay amateur and win world titles but the Commonwealth Games is what they will be remembered for.”

Mike Keane has been involved in boxing for 30 years since joining the local club at the Kirkcaldy YMCA in Valley Gardens.

A short amateur career quickly led into coaching and he helped set up the Kingdom Boxing Club in the Gallatown area 26 years ago.

Over the years the club has been one of the most successful in Scotland, producing more national champions than Keane can remember.

One of his protégé’s, Auchtermuchty’s Lee Ramsay, competed at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

It was Keane’s record of success at the Kingdom club that led Boxing Scotland to offer him the national coach job.

“People notice if your boxers are fit and have got some tactics and technique,” he said.

“All the boys have got natural ability, your job as a coach is to try and elevate it.

“But once the fight starts it’s all down to the boxer to go in the ring and do it.

“Between rounds you’ll get 40 seconds at most to give them one or two tips. Any more and you’ll overload them.

“It will be folly to think we can get 10 gold medals but I’ll be quite happy if they emulate their personal best performances in the ring.

“Then it will be up to the judges to make the call.”