Craig McEwan was expecting to fight either Alfredo Angulo or James Kirkland Friday night on ESPN2 but neither bout materialized. Instead, he must settle for rugged, but less-accomplished Brian Vera in the open-air Sundance Square in Fort Worth, Texas.
And that’s OK with him. The one-time amateur hotshot from Scotland is more focused on learning his craft than high-profile opponents and world titles, at least for the moment.
That’s why he decided to build his career in the U.S. instead of the UK. He learned a lesson by watching such fighters as Ricky Hatton, who spent the bulk of his career in the UK and then was disappointed when he finally made his way overseas.
Hatton lost his two biggest fights here, against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007 and Manny Pacquiao last weekend – both inside the distance.
“A lot of (British) fighters don’t learn enough,” said McEwan, speaking on the phone from his hotel room in Fort Worth. “Then, when it’s time to come over the pond, they get knocked out. They get found out time and time again.
“I just decided to learn from this side.”
It’s too early to know how far the tall (6-foot-1) southpaw will go. He’s had only 14 professional fights, winning all of them (nine by knockout).
However, he has the best learning environment imaginable. He trains at The Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., under Freddie Roach, the hottest trainer in the sport. And he has sparred with the likes of Bernard Hopkins, Winky Wright and Antonio Margarito.
You’re not going to find that in Edinburgh, his hometown.
“I’m learning from the best,” McEwan said. “Freddie … well that speaks for itself. Training at the Wild Card, being involved with Manny Pacquiao, I’m learning so much.”
McEwan arrived in the states well schooled in the fundamentals after almost 400 amateur fights and many amateur titles. All it takes is one look to see that he knows his way around a ring. Roach called him, “A very good boxer.”
One area in which he could use improvement is power. He generally won’t hurt you with one shot, although he did stop his last opponent – Alexis Division – in the first round with a body blow on April 11.
“I’m trying to get him to sit down on his punches,” Roach said. “I think he’s getting a little better at that. We’re still not there yet, though. We’re working on it.”
Roach was busy with a certain Filipino fighter during the bulk of McEwan’s training for the Vera fight. Thus, he wants McEwan to do what he does best – box and pace himself in what is expected to be a hot, humid night under the stars.
He won’t be in the ring with Angulo or Kirkland, who is in jail on a gun charge, but a good performance against Vera on national television would be a nice showcase.
“I told him, ‘Just go out there and outscore this guy,” Roach said. “I think he can do that. And with a good showing on ESPN, hopefully it’ll open some gates for him.”
Vera (16-2, 10 KOs) is no pushover.
The Fort Worth native, who appeared on “The Contender,” stunned the boxing world when he knocked out then-unbeaten Andy Lee in March of last year. Kirkland knocked him out in the eighth round in his most-recent fight.
“I see this as another good step up,” McEwan said. “He’s strong and tough. I’ll stick to boxing. I should be fine.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at RingTVeditor@yahoo.com