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Exclusive: Gary Cornish, The Man Who Was Knocked Out By Joshua, Prepares For Another Heavyweight Challenger

“You want to talk about the history of Scottish heavyweight boxing ?” asks veteran Tommy Gilmour, rhetorically. “There isn’t one !” Until Friday, October 6 when Inverness man mountain Gary Cornish meets Sam Sexton for the vacant British heavyweight championship in Edinburgh in front of the Box Nation cameras. No other Scottish heavyweight has fought for the prestigious title – and not many have come close either. Dundee’s Ken Shaw did fight an eliminator against Freddie Mills way back in 1948 – and retired with a back injury in the first round. Shaw was managed by Gilmour snr and for his first 24 fights, Cornish was guided by his son, Gilmour jr, now retired after 47 years as a license holder. There was a paucity of Scottish heavyweights during those years, but around a decade ago, Gilmour reckons he had “half a chance” with Ian Millarvie. His career was ended by injuries – Gilmour once called Millarvie “the most accident-prone man I’ve ever met” – and now at 37, he’s back and sniffing a possible shot at Cornish, should he beat Sexton, who at 6ft 2ins is around 5 inches shorter. To most fans, Cornish is known for being chinned in 97 seconds by Anthony Joshua when they clashed for the vacant Commonwealth title a couple of years ago. “Gary was OK until he walked out into the O2,” insists Gilmour. “Gary is from a small town and had never seen so many people in his life, never mind fought in front of them. The mental side of boxing is important. I remember shitting myself when I walked out at the Royal Albert Hall – and I was just carrying the bucket !” Cornish has home advantage at Meadowbank Leisure Centre next week and according to Paul Butlin, that could be a factor. Butlin fought Cornish in Inverness and remembered: “The crowd were horrible. Fucking horrible. They were spitting at me, throwing things at me. I fought in front of a lot of hostile crowds before, but nothing like that. They really hate the English up there and we will see how Sam deals with it.” Graham Everett, Sexton’s manager and trainer, replies: “We’ve been in the cauldron and won. 2,000 at Meadowbank won’t be as hostile as 10,000 at the Odyssey Arena.” The Odyssey Arena in Belfast was where Sexton twice beat Martin Rogan in Commonwealth-title fights. Nevertheless, there’s a chance fighting at home will lift Cornish. Jim Watt MBE had the backing of a passionate Scottish crowd during a career that brought him British, European and WBC world honours – and said: “Boxing at home can make you tight because you are terrified of making a mistake. “But it can be a bonus when you get to the later stages of a tough fight and you have to drag it out of yourself. “Everything you do is cheered by everyone and in close rounds that can influence even the most experienced of judges. They will scream the place down every time you throw a punch.” The Scottish public are firmly behind Cornish, who only had nine amateur bouts before turning pro in 2011. There was a good turn-out for a recent open training session in Inverness and the feeling in Cornish’s camp is that this shot may well have come at the right time for him. “I don’t think Gary will ever get a better shot at winning the British title,” said Sam Kynoch, of management team MTK. “It’s the right time and he has given himself the best possible chance.” Cornish has quit his job as a joiner and during the week, he stays near Billy Nelson’s gym in Airdrie, away from his wife and young daughter, where he gets good sparring with Stephen Simmons, Martin Bakole and David Brophy. Cornish and Sexton have had a long time to think about fighting each other. The British Boxing Board of Control first paired them in a British-title eliminator three years ago that didn’t happen and earlier this year, they were set to meet for the belt vacated by Dillian Whyte – until Sexton pulled out with a back injury.