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BOX BOX TO STRIKERS; BIG INTERVIEW EXCLUSIVE; Lee ready to fight for Commonwealth Games bow as he and Jase continue to prove doubters wrong.

Byline: Scott McDermott EXCLUSIVE

Saughton in Edinburgh is best known for its prison.

But from the housing scheme next to it two of Scotland's most prodigious young sportsmen have broken out.

Lee McGregor and Jason Cummings have known each other their entire lives - from kicking about Saughton's streets to getting up to mischief at Stenhouse Primary School to playing for Hutchie Vale.

Now one is a British champion boxer and potential Commonwealth Games medallist while the other is a Hibs cult hero and Scotland star in the making.

They're still close, though, bound together by their tough upbringing.

McGregor didn't contest his first fight until the age of 15. Suffering from skin disorders psoriasis and eczema, he lacked confidence.

But knowing that sport might be his one chance of a successful career he refused to let it beat him. Inspired by his single father Stuart and boxing brother Connor, McGregor kept at it. Just five years later he's in the Great Britain squad and looks certain to compete at next year's Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast.

Jason's good so think His pal Cummings isn't doing too badly either - although judging by his wrestling antics with Grado at Hibs' training ground earlier this month perhaps it's just as well McGregor was the one who ended up in the ring.

I he The bantamweight, rated as a huge talent by mentor and former world champ Alex Arthur, said: "Jason is some boy - he's one of my big pals. We go back a long way.

"We grew up on the same scheme, we went to the same school. We've hung around together for years. We played in the same Hutchison Vale Boys Club team at football as well.

"I've known Jason all his life. There's a perception that he's a bit mental, just a daft boy from the streets.

"But there's a serious side to him as well. Jason has a real drive and desire to succeed.

I admire that. "He's a good laugh so people think he doesn't care but I know he does.

"And he has a big heart. You've seen it when he has cried a few times - like after he missed a penalty and Hibs were relegated. He cares all right. And he has been at every one of my fights - he's always there for me and I'd do the same for him.

"We're always getting praise for doing Saughton proud because it's just a wee scheme in Edinburgh. Hopefully one day I'll be a world champion and Jason will be scoring for Scotland. That would be great for the area.

"We're doing the scheme proud. It's not easy being brought up there.

"You have to work hard to succeed. People doubt you can make anything of your life so it's good to prove them wrong.

"When I was younger I had psoriasis and eczema. I was embarrassed to fight - that's why I didn't have my first bout until 15. I shouldn't have cared about what people thought, I should have just got on with it.

a "I didn't have a lot of confidence but thankfully I didn't give up on it. Jason's the same.

laugh "He took a knock when he was released by Hearts as a young player. You get kicks in life but it's about how you come back.

care know "He was told he wasn't good enough but he's now scoring against them for fun. Hearts will be hating themselves for that."

While McGregor loves the mental toughness of Easter Road striker Cummings, he has two inspirational figures getting inside his head.

His dad along with former WBO super featherweight champ Arthur have been the biggest influences on his life.

Arthur is the one in his corner at every fight over and above supporting him at their Meadowbank gym.

But it's dad Stuart - and the discipline he instilled in his son - that has made him one of Britain's most prodigious talents.

McGregor, who defended his Scottish title against Glasgow's Jack Turner this month, said: "Myself and my brother Connor used to watch Alex's fights on TV with my dad.

"After each round it would go to the ad break for a minute. As soon as it started my dad would get up with the pads on and get me and my brother working them.

"He had us watching the fights and said, 'Right show me what you saw there.' He wanted us to learn from every round then try it on the pads.

"And we were very young so we had it drummed into us from an early age.

"My family have all been a massive help but if it wasn't for my dad Stuart I wouldn't be anywhere near where I am now.

"He's a huge boxing fan. I'll be honest, I hated him sometimes. He wouldn't let us out of the house with our mates because we had training to do and we hated him for that.

"But his friends would say to us, 'You'll thank him one day.' "My pals were out in the sun in the summer time kicking balls about, causing a wee bit of havoc - like young kids do. But my dad would tell us we had plenty of time for that. He wasn't proper strict but just wanted us to be disciplined. When it mattered he was on top of us. He would drop one of us at boxing and take the other to football then vice versa.

"He has been unbelievable. He brought me and my brothers up and has done a great job with us, especially with the boxing."

But McGregor can't understate the importance of having an iconic figure like Arthur, who won a gold medal at the Kuala Lumpur Games in 1998, in his corner.

The 20-year-old is delighted to have someone of his ilk guiding him on a journey he hopes will lead to Australia next year then into the professional game. He said: "It's great to have Alex behind me both in the gym and in my corner for fights.

"He's guiding me in the right direction. Alex has been there and done it all.

"My coaches have been brilliant but no one has done what Alex has done in boxing. He won a Commonwealth gold 20 years ago and wants me to do the same.

"He really believes I can do it. He took the same route, the same path, so it's priceless to have him on board. It's just small things.

"Alex feels that when he was a pro if he'd had someone alongside him - like I have with him - he could still be boxing now.

"He held his super-featherweight title far too long. He should have stepped up but never did.

"He knackered himself at the weight and got beat. That's a valuable lesson for me."

I'll floor top pros after a gold rush Lee McGregor is convinced he'll smash the professional game - once he has won a Commonwealth gold medal.

The 56kg Edinburgh fighter is regarded as one of Britain's brightest hopes having broken into the GB squad based in Sheffield.

McGregor has already knocked back offers to turn pro as he sets his sights on finishing top of the podium on the Gold Coast next summer.

Only then will he consider a shift in status - and when he does he insists he's destined for big title fights.

The Scottish and British champ said: "We had a few pro offers not too long ago but I'm fully focused on the 2018 Commonwealth Games for now.

"I want to win a medal in Australia. That's what I'm concentrating on. "If I do that and get a good offer I'll probably take it.

"After I get a medal on the Gold Coast I'll smash the pro game.

"I'm big for my weight. If I was to go pro now I could make the weight below and be stronger than other boys. "I really fancy myself to be fasttracked as a pro after the Games.

"When I go professional I'm going to try at super-flyweight. And I'd be massive at that weight as I'm 5ft 9ins. "That's the plan and we feel we'll be able to climb up the rankings quickly.

"To go to the Games and win gold would mean everything, not just for me but for my family, Edinburgh, the whole of Scotland.

"It would be amazing and I fully believe I can do it.

"I've only had 35 amateur fights which isn't very much. I'm still learning with every bout and getting better and better. "The guys with 100-odd fights have peaked already - they won't get much better. I still have a lot of improvement so everything is in my favour."

cared Jason's a good laugh so people think he doesn't care but I know he does

CAPTION(S):

BOXING CLEVER McGregor (main) grew up with Cummings (right) and wants to join Hibs striker in putting Saughton (above left) on the map with help from former Scots star Arthur (above right and below)
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Apr 30, 2017
Words:1506
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