DOUG Young was only 15 when he first walked through the doors of the small, slightly dingy gym at the west end of Hawick’s High Street, which was home to the town’s local boxing club.
Born in 1961, the Jedburgh youngster had always had an interest in the noble art, following the careers of such well-known pugilists as Muhammad Ali, Carlos Monzon, Ken Buchanan, Wilfred Benitez and Carlos Palomino – in fact, Doug would actually get to meet the latter two of that famous quintet in the car park of the boxing venue at the 1984 Games.
The teenager was a complete novice but was soon taken under the wing of renowned coach Jock Thorburn from whom he quickly learned the basics through a tortuous regime of running, circuit training and sparring with fellow fighters in the gym.
But it was a good place to learn, as this was a golden period for the Hawick club, boasting district, regional and Scottish champions in its ranks.
Weekends spent working on a farm outside Jedburgh, coupled with playing school rugby, meant fitness was never an issue for Doug. And the young boxer grew rapidly. Having first entered the gym as a middleweight, his first fight turned out to be at light heavyweight.
It was in this division that Doug first met and defeated a heavily-muscled fighter from the Zetland club in Grangemouth by the name of Junior Akinlami. The two boxers would come to know each other well, meeting regularly in bouts on the Scottish circuit over the next four to five years.
However, after suffering a number of defeats at light heavyweight, including a stoppage to vastly-experienced internationalist Stevie Williams, it was some advice from Hawick’s former double Scottish champion Davie Fraser that saw Doug step up to the heavyweight division and he immediately found success.
After having represented Scotland a number of times, Doug had become a regular face in the national squad, boxing against other home nations fighters, as well as abroad in places such as Norway and Denmark.
He also claimed his first titles in the Eastern District Championship in 1982. Unluckily, Doug was then out-pointed in the Scottish championship final by seasoned campaigner Henry Affleck. But bigger things were just round the corner. With the 1984 Olympics fast approaching, Doug was being noticed by selectors at UK level.
And, for the first time, he was now ranked among the top five British heavyweights – Doug would, in fact, remain in the top four for the rest of his amateur career and actually topped the rankings for two years in a row in 1984 and 1985.
In both these seasons he was also crowned Scottish champion, while also winning the coveted ABA title in 1984. This latter victory would be the achievement that would secure Doug his seat on the plane bound for Los Angeles later that same year.
But the Olympic dream was not to last long, with Doug’s relative international inexperience seeing him put out in the second round by Georgio Steffanopollos.
It was a shattering blow and the Jedburgh boxer contemplated retiring from the sport he loved. On the bright side, however, the warm welcome Doug received on his return from the Olympics convinced him to box on and he turned his attention to winning gold at the Commonwealth Games, scheduled for two years later in Edinburgh.
Doug was also inspired to continue fighting by the golden era boxing had now entered with such incredible fighters as Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and two of his all-time heroes – Roberto “Stone Fists” Duran and “Marvellous” Marvin Hagler enthralling fight fans around the globe.
Doug grabbed opportunities to hone his ring skills by sparring with some seasoned professionals, as well as up-and-coming stars, such as future British and European champion Gary Mason, a future world title contender in Mark Kaylor and future world cruiserweight champion Magne Havna.
With this training came a much-needed new discipline and appreciation of the skills required to step through the ropes at the highest levels.
After having been unable to fight for the Scottish title in 1986 because of a broken ankle sustained in a fall from a roof, Doug’s international experience saw him offered the chance to box the new champion, a powerful puncher called Lee Maxwell.
The Jedburgh fighter stopped Maxwell in the second round to secure his place as captain of Scotland’s boxing team for that year’s Commonwealth Games.
With much more top-class experience and ring craft to call upon, the Edinburgh event would see a different story to the Olympics disappointment of two years before.
Doug fought three bouts to reach the final, where he faced the hard-hitting New Zealander, Jimmy Peau, who would later challenge for the WBO version of the heavyweight world title.
Doug lost to Peau by a knockout with just 30 seconds left on the clock of a bout he was well ahead in, but he’d still done Jedburgh, the Borders and Scotland proud and took home the silver medal.
Afterwards, Doug turned professional under Glasgow promoter Tommy Gilmour and went on to fight seven times. He only lost his debut pro clash and then again in his fifth match-up, this time to future world champion Johnny Nelson on points.
Sadly, a life-threatening road injury suffered in 1987 forced Doug into retirement. But his record as an amateur of 64 wins from 80 fights, 39 by knockout, together with 20 international caps, a Commonwealth Games silver medal and selection as an Olympian makes him one of the Borders’ greatest sporting competitors.
Now sales manager with Lochcarron of Scotland’s Highland-wear division, Doug still lives in Jedburgh.
“I remember the Los Angeles Games very well – it was a massive occasion,” he said.
“To be honest though, my main ambition had always been to be an ABA champion and I managed to achieve that in 1984. That’s what I wanted most.
“The Olympics came a little too early for me, when I didn’t really have enough international experience. But you don’t pass up a chance to go to the Olympics and it was an incredible time.”