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Craig McEwan follows Pacquiao's lead in LA


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HE has been at the epicentre of world boxing excellence for three years, yet remains the best-kept secret in Scottish sport. When Craig McEwan relocated from Edinburgh to Los Angeles, he sacrificed the guarantee of instant public profile in his homeland for the potential of ultimate worldwide recognition.

One of the finest amateur boxers Scotland has produced in recent times, McEwan was a bronze medallist at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester and a quarter-finalist in Melbourne four years later.


When he decided to turn professional in 20


06, he could have taken his pick of promoters and managers eager to recruit him. Instead, McEwan chose to up sticks and chase a dream in the Hollywood hills. At the now celebrated Wild Card Gym, the fiercely patriotic Scot has served his professional apprenticeship and honed his considerable boxing skills under the peerless guidance of Freddie Roach.


Universally acclaimed as the world's leading boxing trainer, most notably for his outstanding work with the current pound for pound No 1 Manny Pacquiao, Roach has helped McEwan become one of the middleweight division's hottest prospects.


Now 27, McEwan will seek to extend his perfect professional record to 17 victories from 17 contests when he takes on James Parison of San Diego in Qeubec City tomorrow night on the undercard of Canadian hero Lucian Bute's IBF super- middleweight title defence against Librado Andrade.


Like each of his previous 16 fights since a first-round knockout of George Montalvo in his professional debut on a Marco Antonio Barrera undercard at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in September 2006, it has all but slipped under the radar in Scotland. But if out of sight is out of mind as far as his own folk are concerned, McEwan has no reservations about the path he has chosen.


"No disrespect to boxing in the UK," he says, "but when I looked at the guys who turned professional before me, there seemed to be no real ambition. They just ended up fighting the same opponents on the British scene, being hailed as world beaters when they got a few wins and then getting found out.


"I decided if I was going to be the best I possibly could be, then I had to start in America, where the best fighters are. I had gone over to the Wild Card Gym for a month in 2005 on the recommendation of a mutual friend I had with Freddie. I took to it straight away and Freddie wanted me to turn professional right away. But I was committed to boxing for Scotland in the Commonwealth Games the following year so I waited until after that.


"When I took the decision to commit myself to going to Los Angeles, Steve Collins was an inspiration for me. He had done the same thing in his career. He learned his trade in America and no-one in Britain had really heard of him until he came back to beat Chris Eubank and become world super-middleweight champion."


McEwan's progress under Roach has been steady rather than spectacular, but the 27-year-old is being groomed for greatness. He has a contract with Golden Boy Promotions, headed by former six-weight world champion Oscar de la Hoya, and is closing on on a title shot in the middlweight division. As he soaks up the sun at his San Fernando Valley home with wife Sally and their 15-month old son Callum, life is good for McEwan. But it has not come easily.


"It was tough at first when we came out here," he says. "Sally, who was my fiancee at the time, had to finish her degree in teaching back home first and initially we were out of pocket financially. We had to go back to Scotland every three months and re-apply for visas. Since I got the deal with Golden Boy, though, it has set us up.


"Although there were hard times at the start, I always looked at Manny Pacquiao and what he had done. He came to Freddie's gym from the Phillipines with nothing and is now the best boxer in the world. If you really want to achieve anything in this sport, you have to be prepared to make sacrifices. That's the only way the rewards will come."


While Pacquaio is the most notable of McEwan's gym-mates, he has also been joined in recent months by Amir Khan. The 2004 Olympic silver medallist has re-ignited his professional career under Roach and will make the first defence of his WBA light-welterweight title in Newcastle next weekend. For now, the UK spotlight still eludes McEwan but he has been assured that will change next year.


"Fighting at Easter Road is a dream of mine," says the Hibs-supporting McEwan, who roused himself at 4am in the morning recently to watch the Edinburgh derby online.


"I've told Oscar de la Hoya my ultimate ambition is to headline a show in Scotland. He has told me if I win a title, then that can happen. If Ricky Hatton fights Juan Manuel Marquez in Manchester next year, which is being talked about, then I'll probably be on the undercard.


"It's great to work alongside guys like Manny and Amir every day and hopefully their success can rub off on me. Winning a world title is obviously my goal and I'll just try to keep beating every opponent Golden Boy put in front of me until that happens."


The opponent in front of McEwan tomorrow night is no walkover. Parison, also 27 and unbeaten as a professional, has his own ambitions of reaching the top of the professional ladder.


"I don't know a great deal about him," admits McEwan, "other than he was a highly-regarded amateur. We have one common opponents, a guy called Ivan Stovall who he outpointed in 2007 and I stopped earlier this year. It's seen as a step up for me but I feel I'm ready for it. Training and sparring has been great and although Freddie won't be in my corner on Saturday night, as he is already in England with Amir, all of the preparations have been done."


Victory over Parison would nudge McEwan closer to the title shot he craves and push his secret career ever closer to being uncovered by his compatriots.


"Although I decided to leave Scotland, it still means everything to me," he says. "I made sure the Saltire is hanging up in the Wild Card Gym and everyone here knows exactly where I come from. Hopefully I will make Scotland proud of me one day."



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