ELLESMERE Port's Nick Mac-Donald reckons 2006 is his year to smash through into the big time, writes Phil Robinson.
And what better arena to stake his claim for international fame than the 18th Commonwealth Games, which get under way in Melbourne today.
England's boxing team are eyeing a big medal haul Down Under and Vauxhall ABC bantamweight Mac-Donald is one of their brightest prospects.
The 22-year-old battler is one of four Merseysiders in the nation's 11-strong squad.
The Amateur Boxing Association of England is confident of eclipsing the achievements of four years ago in Manchester where the team won two gold, three silver and a bronze.
Paul King, chief executive of the ABAE, said: 'This is the strongest team we've ever assembled for a major international competition.
'Many of the lads are in the best shape of their lives and Melbourne has come at the right time in their careers.'
MacDonald goes to Australia as the reigning ABA bantamweight champion.
Speaking to Pioneer Sport before he jetted to the other side of the world, he said that he believes 2006 to be the year he will finally fulfil his potential and emerge as one of the world's most feared amateur boxers.
In January his stunning ability saw him secure a record equalling 10th national title - a triumph that paved the way for his inclusion in the Commonwealth Games party.
Since the start of the year Mac-Donald has been with the squad in Greece as part of the programme of training and acclimatisation for the two-week Games.
MacDonald's previous efforts to propel himself into the world of the boxing elite have been hampered by a recurring hand injury, one that ultimately led to the disap-
pointment of missing out on the chance of glory at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
He said: 'Obviously it was a massive blow to miss the Olympics. The hand injury never quite healed and instead of leaving it for the recommended eight weeks of recovery I kept trying to rush back and it resulted in me breaking it three times.
'But I'm fully recovered now and I'm hungry to make up for lost time. Every competition I enter I
want to win, starting with the Commonwealth Games and then the Olympic qualifiers in 18 months.'
MacDonald's hunger to increase his medal haul has been backed by his trainer, George Treble, who said: 'Nick has had some big disappointments in the past because of his broken hand. He's missed out on titles he feels he could and should have won.
'But we are looking to the future now and Australia is the big one for him.'