Mark McKeown setting sights on first belt of his professional career

·4-min read
Mark McKeown setting sights on first belt of his professional career
Mark McKeown setting sights on first belt of his professional career

AFTER welcoming one new arrival into the family this week, Mark McKeown now has his sights set on a second.

The Coatbridge featherweight has become a dad for the second time, a sibling for five-year old Luca, with the baby arriving just in time ahead of McKeown’s return to the ring.

His seventh fight is shaping up to be a special one as he looks to win a belt for the first time in his professional career.

It is the Celtic title that is up for grabs in Swansea in a contest against another unbeaten fighter in Joshua John (4-0) that will be broadcast live on BBC Wales and on the BBC iPlayer.

The Keir Hardie boxer has made steady progress since turning over from the amateur ranks but a victory in this one ought to catapult him closer to bigger fights in the not-too-distant future.

“This is a really big deal for me at this stage of my career,” said the man known as Sparky. “I’m excited about the opportunity and can’t wait to get down there. I think this fight and opponent are going to suit me down to a tee so I’m confident I can go there and get the belt.

“It’s down in Swansea and as far as I know it’s on BBC Wales but also on the iPlayer so people up here should be able to tune in and watch it live.

“I realise it’s quite far to travel so I can’t expect all my usual supporters to go down to Wales for it. So it’s ideal for the people who can’t make it.

“But I’m still hoping that a crowd of around 30 of my family and friends will be ringside to support. They’ll make a lot of noise I’m sure!

“It feels like an important milestone in my career. When I turned over the plan was to shoot for titles as early as we could and the fact it’s happening in my seventh fight is brilliant. I just need to make sure I make the most of the opportunity as it’s the sort of thing that can open doors for me.”

McKeown impressed in his most recent win at the Glasgow Hydro on the undercard of the Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall fight, a 60-53 points win over Engel Gomez.

That bout came a few months before another Scot, Nathaniel Collins, defended his Commonwealth featherweight title in the same venue against the previously undefeated Welsh champion, Jacob Robinson.

And should McKeown and Collins both continue along their current trajectories, an all-Scottish tussle for the Celtic and Commonwealth titles somewhere down the line shouldn’t be discounted.

“Fighting in the Hydro the last time was brilliant,” added McKeown. “And to do it on such a big night for Scottish boxing just made it more special. The Hydro wasn’t full by the time I was in the ring but there were still quite a few in and they made a decent noise.

“That just gives you a taste for wanting more big nights like that and it’s in my own hands if I can keep winning.

“I saw that Nathaniel defended his belt at the Hydro a few weeks ago so there’s every possibility we could be on a collision course at some point in the near future if we keep going as we are.

“He’s done really well to win the Commonwealth belt and then defend it a few times and he’s been linked with a crack at the British title too.

“We both have aspirations of making it to the top so maybe we’ll meet each other on the way. It would be a cracking fight for Scottish boxing.”

McKeown has somehow been able to keep his usual training regime on schedule despite the various trips back and forward to the maternity ward.

He has been helped, as always, in his preparations for his trip to Wales by the evergreen Ricky Burns, the former three-weight world champion who continues to train as hard as ever at the age of 39.

“I’ve been out running with Ricky most mornings and then training together at night,” revealed McKeown. “He’s been a massive help and can still go faster than most of the young ones! He’s an absolute machine and I can’t thank him enough for helping me with my preparations.”

McKeown was formerly part of the MTK Global stable before their recent demise but the 28 year-old insists it’s still business as usual.

“It’s not really affected anything,” he added. “I’ve still got the same people managing me and I’m not out of pocket so things are just carrying on as normal.”

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