Preston boxer Scott Fitzgerald has targeted the biggest win of his career – just months after overcoming the greatest battle of his life.
In an exclusive interview with the Lancashire Post, the former Commonwealth Games gold medal winner has admitted to battling a cocaine habit in the past.
But on the eve of his blockbuster domestic super-welterweight contest with Anthony Fowler on Saturday night at the Liverpool Arena, Fitzgerald revealed he has been clean for a number of months.
And he is determined to show to the world that he is fully over his past problems by producing the biggest performance of his career so far when he takes to the ring this weekend.
Fitzgerald – who learned his craft as a youngster at Larches and Savick Amateur Boxing Club under the tutelage of his father Dave – shot to stardom on a global stage when he won the welterweight division at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
A little over a year later he turned his back on a potential shot at winning gold at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, as part of the Team GB squad, when he decided to turn professional with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing promotions company.
But Fitzgerald admitted that is the moment when his problems began, as his life descended into a spiral of drug abuse in between training and preparing for fights.
The 27-year-old ex-National ABA champion insists his life his now under control and he is focused on making the most of his undoubted ability.
And he pledged to help make a difference to other people beset by drug addiction.
“When I came off the GB Team and I became a pro, I was left to my own devices,” said Fitzgerald.
“With the job of being a professional boxer, I had a lot of free time – I was training at 10 until half-twelve and then I would have all day.
“I was just messing about – it was drink and drugs non stop for a lot of days of my life.
“I will never, ever do it again but at least I have got it all out of the way and I’ve learned from my mistakes.
“I am not denying that I have done all of that – it is what has made me. I was still doing all that and still managed to win 12 pro fights with nine KOs.
“Now I’m going to do a demolition job on Saturday and then push on for the British and European (titles) this year – that is what I want.”
“I am the most focused man on the planet and I just feel like the way I am now, I am going to build up some hate towards every single person I fight because they are trying to stop me getting where I want to get.”
‘Drugs just nights before fights’
Fitzgerald’s chaotic lifestyle meant that he was certainly not living the lifestyle of a professional athlete – even the nights before fights would not be spared from his addiction.
“I’ve been off it (drugs) this all year,” Fitzgerald said. “I was doing it most days, pretty much every day and I was doing it as close as two or three days before fights.
“I’ll be honest, the night before the Bradley Pryce fight (in 2017) I went in the casino and I was off my head. I was smoking fags and everything.
“That’s the truth – I am not lying. I don’t know how I’ve managed not to get beaten really.
“People might look at me when I start mentioning it and say, ‘What you doing’?
“But what’s the problem in talking about it when I’m never going to do it again?
“I’m actually quite passionate about it. If I can do well in this sport and then I will actually look to talk about it all because, honestly, I can’t tell you how bad that stuff is.
“It’s the devil and I would like to talk people out of doing it.
“I never thought I would be able to stop, if I am totally honest, but I have and I will never do it again because I have learned how really bad it is.
“It makes you a tenth of the man you can be and a weak little version of yourself. Never again will I do it – I promise.”
Fitzgerald’s mental health questioned
Fitzgerald’s mental health has certainly been questioned over the past month or so after becoming embroiled in a war of words with Fowler on social media.
The pair have a lot of history – they once faced each other as juniors, which Liverpudlian Fowler won – and they were also former team-mates on the GB squad.
Indeed, Fitzgerald’s success at the Commonwealth Games came just minutes before Fowler’s own gold-medal joy at middleweight.
The Preston fighter insists he is fine and his Twitter postings are all about him enjoying himself and putting himself in the right frame of mind so that he can produce his best on Saturday.
“I am just enjoying myself,” said Fitzgerald. “If I get a free hour or two, it’s something to do.
“I get a little buzz of it (Twitter). I am building a good fan-base off it and anyone who tells me to get off it is absolutely stupid because I am building a fan-base and changing my life for the better.”
Fitzgerald believes he is in the greatest shape of his life and he is ready to do whatever it takes to get the victory on Saturday over Fowler, who is the cousin of former Liverpool and England striker Robbie Fowler.
“I think I can win rapid, but I also will be ready to go 24 rounds if needed at a good pace,” said Fitzgerald, who has been working with his dad, Jimmy Moon, Joe Kilshaw and Michael Jennings in the build-up to the fight, as well as working with strength and conditioning coach Liam Woods.