Benson aiming to light up the competition
As Ricky Burns prepares to go for a third world title at a third weight class on Saturday night in Glasgow Boxing Monthly caught up with one of the fighting Scot's compatriots who plans to be a big part of Scottish boxing's future.
A Ricky Burns fight week always brings the same questions.
Who will take over from him once he retires?
Who and where is the next star to come out from Scotland?
How long will it be before boxing returns to Scotland if Ricky gets beat?
And so on, and so on.
The 2014 Commonwealth Games Scottish boxing team has proved to be a welcome talent pool for Scottish boxing which are aiming to answer those questions in due course. A mix of styles and characters that are breathing new life into the nation's interest in boxing, and proving that whatever happens this Saturday night there will always be life after the unforgettable nights that Ricky Burns has given to his country and boxing fans nationwide.
Charlie Flynn, Joe Ham, Ross Henderson, Kieran Smith and Josh Taylor all left the Glasgow Games with a mixed bag of medals and results but eventually downed the amateur tools to pick up the professional ones. As did Lewis Benson (6-0, 2 KOs), a positive and confident character who signed a professional contract with MGM Marbella last June before making his professional debut three months later in a four round contest against Kristian Laight in Benson’s home city of Edinburgh.
It was a night when the popular 24-year-old welterweight sold 240 tickets. The usual 80 or so who followed him throughout his amateur career were in attendance with plenty more out in force to support ‘Kid Caramel’ in the Scottish capital.
“At the Scottish amateur finals I used to be the best ticket seller every year,” said Benson when Boxing Monthly asked about his growing reputation and the demand to see him box.
“I knew for the big nights I would always have everyone out there. Still the same to this day. Obviously my debut was the big one, I pushed it out there for everyone to come. Everyone came along and supported me and it was amazing.
“I know as soon as I a snap up a title fight for myself everybody will creep out the woodwork and want to be there. If my supporters miss one fight they would come to another one. I’ve always got good support and they make some good noise for myself, its great support.”
Benson is now part of a group of Scottish fighters that are not only keen to pick up the baton from Ricky Burns but seem to have little interest in waiting for the bigger fights. Thanks to shows put on by the likes of MGM Scotland and Lock Stock Promotions, among others, there is a feel good factor returning to a nation that has produced the likes of Benny Lynch and Ken Buchanan.
“Scottish boxing, right now, is possibly the best it’s ever been to be honest,” Benson enthused.
“Some really talented fighters have come out of the Commonwealth Games team, then you’ve got the likes of Stephen Tiffney (lightweight), Lewis Paulin (super featherweight)… they’re top fighters too.
“Paulin is a good fighter, never won the Scottish title but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a great fighter in the amateurs. He was just always pipped by either Charlie Flynn or Stephen Tiffney. He’ll be in the mix soon too. The ones coming through now are really ambitious and that’s what we need.”
Benson found boxing as a teenager. A trip to Meadowbank ABC with a friend of his resulted in the pair messing about in the gym but it wasn’t too long before the bug bit Benson. He told BM that his friend has been in and out of jail since he was 16. The Scot didn’t predict a similar experience at Her Majesty’s pleasure had he not found boxing, but because of the unknown he’s always glad that he and the sweet science found one another.
“That’s the thing you don’t know, where you would have been if it wasn’t for boxing. I just wanted to be a boxer and I put everything into it since I had my first fight at 14. That’s been ten years I’ve been right at it and I’ve dedicated my life to boxing and without boxing I don’t know where I would be right now.”
Boxing would help Benson to channel his anger too. As a child he described himself as a “real angry kid”. There would be family parties and the youngster wouldn’t be invited.
“I was the different one,” said Benson.
Benson also had to deal with racism when he was younger, something that he would never tolerate. As the only mixed-race child at Clermiston Primary School in Edinburgh Benson would have to deal with taunts and cruel remarks that would lead to him fighting back. People didn’t like it when the youngster pushed the other way and were quick to forget what happened to him beforehand.
“A lot of racist remarks put to myself, I wouldn’t say all my life but a big part of it,” Benson recalled.
“Nowadays I laugh at stuff like that because I’m older but when I was younger I couldn’t have anyone saying anything like that, I would always want to hit out. Now I’m older and more mature I can laugh at it.”
The former electrician who idolises Floyd Mayweather and loves to watch Cuban amateur boxers is not only enjoying having the last laugh on those that tormented him but is quickly developing into a ‘one to watch’ talent in Scotland. One that aims to be knocking on the door of a top 10 British ranking in 2017 as well as holding a minor title at the very minimum
“This time next year I’ll be ready to light up the competition,” he said.