There is something special about Preston’s Commonwealth Games gold medal hopeful Scott Fitzgerald.
That is according to former pro fighter turned respected boxing trainer Karl Ince, who has followed the 22-year-old’s career closely.
Ince, who hails from Preston and boasts a stable of professional fighters based in the city, has travelled to Glasgow to watch every one of Fitzgerald’s fights this week at the Scottish Conference and Exhibition Centre.
He will be heading north of the border once more today to see the Larches and Savick Amateur Boxing Club star face South Africa’s Tulani Mbenge in the semi-finals of the welterweight competition, scheduled for 8-30pm.
After beating New Zealander Bowyn Morgan in Wednesday’s bruising quarter-final bout, Fitzgerald is already guaranteed a bronze medal.
However, a win over Mbenge will see the former National ABA champion go into tomorrow’s gold medal encounter – against either Mandeep Jangra, of India, or Northern Irishman Steven Donnelly.
Despite being thrilled to have won a medal no matter what, Fitzgerald, who has earned praise from former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, only has eyes for the biggest prize.
And Ince – who has worked with the ilk of super-middleweight legend Joe Calzaghe and Chorley’s welterweight world title challenger Michael Jennings during his career as a trainer – is convinced about the Preston man’s star quality.
As an amateur fighter, he believes Fitzgerald can win everything there is on offer and will compete for big titles when he turns professional.
“I believe in Scott,” Ince told the Evening Post. “I’ve believed in him from day one – when he was going for the National ABA title last year.
“I can see something special about Scott. I believe he’s going to win the gold.
“He’s 22-years-old, he can go on to even bigger things.
“He can fight for the Olympic title and when it’s time for him to turn pro, he will be a champion in no time.
“If he gets the right promoter – he will be right up there.”
Ince has been impressed with the level of maturity shown by Fitzgerald during his fights in Glasgow, especially in his second bout against Ghana’s Azumah Mohammed when he had to cope with a nasty cut above his left eye.
“He got that cut, but he didn’t panic,” Ince said.
“That’s the thing about Scott – he’s matured.
“He did not let the cut worry him – he just got on with it and that’s what I like about him now. He’s learned from his dad Dave and the lads down at Larches and he’s really starting to grow up and mature as a fighter.”
Fitzgerald had to dig deep against Morgan on Wednesday and won the bout on a split points decision 29-28.
Two out of the three judges awarded the first couple of rounds to him, but only one judge thought he won the final round
However, Ince felt the Preston fighter was rewarded for landing the cleaner shots during the nine-minute contest.
“I spoke to Scott after the fight and he said the New Zealand lad was a very, very strong lad,” Ince said.
“Scott had to adapt. He can fight and he can box as well.
“He had to box and counter – and that’s what he did. I think he was the one who landed the cleaner shots and that’s why he won the fight.
“He was buzzing after the fight. He is feeling good.
“Obviously, he’s a bit stiff and his hands hurting a little bit, but he’s confident about his next fight.”
Ince, who has worked in big arenas such as New York’s Madison Square Gardens, has been impressed with the atmosphere in Glasgow.
He said: “It’s been fantastic. The atmosphere has been as good as a world title fight night.
“There should be a special mention to the fans from Preston who have travelled up.
“The lads from the Lane Ends and Larches have really got behind Scott – they are 120% behind him. They’ve been brilliant.”