From the outside looking in, Priestfield Boxing gym in Blantyre, South Lanarkshire, doesn’t seem like much. It isn’t your easy on the eye, state-of-the-art facility. It’s discoloured, worn exterior is typical of a spit-and-sawdust boxing breeding ground, often cleverly disguising the tales of hope and optimism that keep it insulated.
The Priestfield gym, home to rising Scottish cruiserweight David Jamieson (6-1, 4 KOs) looked a lot different just a few years back when it switched ownership. Jamieson – signed to Kynoch Boxing – was there from the very beginning and spoke to Boxing Social about his affiliation with a gym built from the ground up: “It started off and it was just a blood and sweat-type gym. We moved in there and it was soaking wet, damp, broken roof sheets and about 50 Sainsburys trolleys inside it – it was just a hovel. Now, we’ve all sort of worked away, chipped away at it, it’s all Gyproc sheeted, and we’ve put a suspended ceiling in.”
Jamieson sent pictures of the ‘before’ – the gym resembling a supermarket carpark, trolleys standing to attention in rows, leaving barely any room for anything, other than damp and degradation. “In the winter, I’m not joking if it was like six degrees outside it was about four degrees inside at the most. So, we spoke to the landlord, and we got some funding together, and we’re now going to be installing a wee heating system to get the temperature up. It’s from small acorns, isn’t it? It’s one of those. When you see what it’s grown into, it’s brilliant. We were there from the beginning, putting those sheets of Gyproc on the wall.”
Despite loyally training at the modernised Priestfield, Jamieson isn’t a Blantyre local. He’s from nearby East Kilbride, a town without much in the way of boxing legacy. His introduction to boxing started in the same way as many others, a heavier teenager looking for an outlet in search of healthier living. A solid amateur career saw him capturing the Scottish Novice Championships just months after he’d started competing, but amateur boxing wasn’t what he’d dreamed of when lacing up the gloves.
As a professional fighter approaching his eighth contest on November 5 – televised on FightZone and hosted at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium – Jamieson never expected anything less than an explosive stint on the paid circuit: “I was 15-years old and, believe it or not, I was like 15 and a half stone. I started doing something about it and I went to the sports centre [near me]. The big thing at the time was MMA, and they used to run an MMA class. I realised very quickly that I was much better with my hands than I was with my legs or anything like that. I ended up going to a boxing circuits class with a coach called Billy Leach. He gave me the whole Cus D’Amato speech, you know, the whole, ‘You could maybe do a bit here’. He sent me down to Blantyre Miners Welfare club and the rest was history.
“I just totally got the bug for it. I’ve got a bit of an addictive personality and I just couldn’t leave it alone. When I got into boxing, the only thing I’d ever aspired to was professional boxing. I didn’t even realise that amateur boxing existed. I’ve always had a very pro-style, fighting on the inside, always on the front foot. I’ve always had that same style even throughout my amateur career – to my detriment at times. I always want to be in exciting fights when really, you’re meant to just go out there and win and it doesn’t matter if it looks good or not.”
Jamieson, now 29, continued, “When I missed out on my spot for the Commonwealth Games in [the Gold Coast] Australia, I knew then and there that I was gonna turn professional. The boyhood dream – it’s the Lord Lonsdale belt, winning that British title. I could put my head on the pillow and know that I gave it my best shot and I achieved something. That’s what it’s all about. World titles and things like that, different international titles, you could get a phone call to go and fight somebody in Russia for a WBO intercontinental and you end up in the rankings. Boxing works in mysterious ways.”
It does work in mysterious ways, something which Jamieson found out during a brief sabbatical from the sport, sitting some 20-plus pounds above the cruiserweight limit, waiting for a fight that was yet to be agreed. The Ultimate Boxxer tournament, a knockout style contest held during the course of one evening, was set for cruiserweight, and Jamieson’s name was nowhere near the original listing of fighters. After hearing of a potential opportunity to sneak through the side door as a backup, things changed rather quickly.
“That was a cracking opportunity!” remembered full-time construction workshop manager, Jamieson. “It was the strangest set of events. I was with [former manager] Paul Graham at the time and he phoned me up. I tend to try and stay in the gym all the time now, but at that time, I was on-and-off, blowing a bit hot and cold. It was championship limit, and I had a fair bit of weight to lose, I think it was a stone and 10 pounds to lose in 10 days. That’s not like me. I’m normally living boxing, eat, sleep, train and repeat type of stuff. Paul phoned me back and said, ‘Listen, you’ve got the call up’ and I was thinking, ‘You’re kidding me on here!’ It was a struggle to get the weight off, but we got there. The night before I was about three pounds over, so we stuck a few hoodies on and drove to Manchester for the weigh-in and by then, I was on limit. It was brilliant; it was great craic.”
Despite battling to shake the weight and wading into the unknown, he toppled unbeaten Dan Cooper in his opening fight – announcing himself to the wider television audience. Next up, Sauerland prospect and tournament favourite Mikael Lawal was waiting, and the East Kilbride-fighter pushed the Londoner all the way before losing a unanimous decision to the eventual winner. It was the same tournament that Priestfield stablemate Jay Carrigan-MacFarlane would enter just months later, cuddling a pink teddy bear and wearing steam punk goggles.
Jamieson isn’t quite the eccentric showman – it was business; it’s always business. Despite falling short, he told Boxing Social of the vital learning he’d taken from his night in Manchester, and had a message for BOXXER’s Lawal: “I think a lot of fighters when they turn pro, they look at the bigger shows and they wonder, ‘Can I cut it in front of the television cameras?’ That’s one thing that a lot of fighters aren’t so forthcoming about. ‘Can I cut it under the spotlight with 10,000 people looking back at me?’ It was great for me in that aspect because it ticked a box for me. I knew I could cut it, I know I was built for it. I think it was a blessing in disguise that we never had the big build-up and stuff, it was just: make weight, we’ve done the hard part, go in here and enjoy yourself.
“Mikael [Lawal] boxed last weekend, but I’m now sitting at 11 in Britain and Mikael Lawal is a fight I’ll definitely chase because for anybody that watched it, they know over the three-round distance I was the one forcing the fight – and I was the guy who had a few days to prepare for the fight. If it’s myself and Mikael Lawal over 10 rounds for a British title eliminator, that’s where we’re heading. I’m leaving the door open to a scrap between me and anybody else. No disrespect to the boys, it’s just belief in my ability, there’s nobody there that I don’t think I could beat over 10 or 12 rounds.”
For now though, it’s November 5 and hopes of a Celtic title on the line. Jamieson is confident the next year could be exciting, with manager Sam Kynoch ready to help open doors to some of the biggest domestic clashes. The cruiserweight prospect was speaking to Boxing Social after another long, strenuous day. Up for road work before beginning work on-site at 7am, and then off to Priestfield for hours in the gym.
The energy and continued enthusiasm is commendable, but he mentions that “plenty of people are doing the same – there’s no point in going on about it”. This is the life of a small hall fighter, often talented enough to perform on larger platforms, but lacking something – mostly out with their own control. Why do it, you may ask? In the constant and relentless hope that things will change, and that their time will come.
“This is a struggle, don’t get me wrong,” he admits. “Boxing is my passion; it’s the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night. See when I’m dialled in, I’ve got this addictive personality, I don’t even need to think about it. My diet is bang-on, and everything just falls into place. I find that – especially with work and training – I work better when I’m slightly stretched. When I need to be on my toes and running about, I work better then. If I’ve got too much time on my hands, that’s not when I’m operating at my best.”
Jamieson ends by explaining he faces the toughest fight of his life just a week before his next professional outing – he’s getting married. From discussion, it’s clear that the support provided by his fiancée, his family and friends keep him going, when it would be easier to slip out of shape and gather dust. Priestfield isn’t that kind of environment, though. Hard work pays the bills, and it’s with hard work they’ve pulled something together – understated, but special in its own way. They’re together, hidden in their own little part of the world. David Jamieson is hoping to put them on the map.
Main image: Kynoch Boxing.