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Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Thursday, 9 September 2010 12:08 UK

John McCallum dreams of fighting in America

John McCallum and Barry McGuigan
John meets former WBA world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan

Jim Black
By Jim Black

Scottish boxing is in danger of losing another of its brightest young talents to America in the wake of Edinburgh-born middleweight Craig McEwan's defection.

John McCallum is unknown outside amateur circles, but the 22-year-old, who also hails from the capital, has visions of one day seeing his name up in lights on Hollywood Boulevard.

McCallum comes from boxing stock. His uncle Tommy aspired to the level of Scottish light-middleweight champion in the 1980s, competing against such illustrious names as Clinton McKenzie, Lloyd Honeyghan and Gary Jacobs.

But McCallum, who is attached to the Leith Victoria boxing club, has his heart set on achieving more widespread success when he turns professional this month.

The young middleweight says that he is being forced to do so due to a lack of opportunities to further his career in the amateur ranks, where he has racked up 129 wins from 147 contests.

McCallum has an impressive CV that boasts seven East of Scotland titles, six Scottish and four British Youth Championships and a silver medal at senior level in the Four Nations. In addition, he has won gold medals in Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland and Poland.

Once a regular sparring partner for the recently crowned world super-featherweight champion, Ricky Burns, at the Barn Club in Coatbridge, McCallum has also shared a ring with Alex Arthur, Kenny Anderson, Garry McMillan, Kell Brooke and Junior Witter.

But he remains deeply frustrated, claiming that he has been stuck at the same level for the past six years.

"I gained a lot of experience as a junior and I did well, but I have never had a break when it has come to the Commonwealth Games and the Olympics," he said.

McCallum boxes at Leith Victoria Amateur Athletic Club
McCallum boxes at the Leith Victoria Amateur Athletic Club

"There has never been an opportunity to train with the GB squad and it is extremely hard-going trying to fund yourself.

"There are a lot of good amateur fighters in Scotland but the selectors don't always pick the champions. The current Scottish middleweight champion, for example, hasn't been selected for this year's Commonwealth Games.

"There are an awful lot of politics involved in the sport and I have reached the stage where I feel the time is right for me to turn professional.

"But I can't live on the £500 a fight some promoters pay and I have no wish to work at my trade as a bricklayer and box part-time.

"The precariousness of my situation was brought home to me when I dislocated my thumb in my last fight and was unable to work for four months.

"You can't lay bricks with a metal plate in your hand and I was forced to seek office work in account management.

"What happened really put me off amateur boxing. Had the same thing happened in a professional bout I would at least have had some money to tide me over.

"So, in a sense, I feel that I am being forced into this move. But I don't see my long-term future being in Scotland.

"My hope is that I can have two fights before Christmas to at least put down a marker and then head for the States.

I want to spar with Manny Pacquiao and try to knock him out in front of all the managers and promoters who will be watching

John McCallum

"I was a team-mate of Craig McEwan in the Scotland team and I used to spar with him at his dad, Rab's, gym.

"Craig was bold enough to make the move to America and his career has taken off after he turned up unannounced at Freddie Roach's gym in Los Angeles.

"I admire Craig for having the courage to take the risk and his success has given me the encouragement to also throw myself in at the deep end.

"As soon as I have saved sufficient funds I plan to jump on a plane, fly to LA, and also arrive unannounced on Roach's doorstep.

"I want to spar with Manny Pacquiao and try to knock him out in front of all the managers and promoters who will be watching so I can make a statement and get myself noticed.

"OK, so maybe that particular dream isn't going to become reality. But fighters are looked after better in the States, where there are far more opportunities.

"I also genuinely believe that I have the skills and the potential to become a world champion with the right trainer and manager behind me.

"It's everyone's ambition to become a millionaire and I believe going to America can change my life."

McCallum has been boosted by the promise of sponsorship from Edinburgh businessman Abdul Ali, but one suspects that his determination is such he will arrive at his planned destination with or without financial aid.

see also
Incomparable drama on Burns night
05 Sep 10 |  Boxing
McEwan's dream to emulate Buchanan
28 Jun 10 |  Scotland
Burns awaits title destiny
03 Jun 10 |  Boxing
Lack of bouts frustrates Simpson
30 Apr 10 |  Boxing
Scottish boxing is fighting fit
25 Jan 10 |  Scotland
Boxing basics
13 Dec 05 |  Get Involved
Amateur boxing explained
01 Mar 06 |  Boxing

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