‘A lot of peo­ple were tip­ping Kash to win and I proved them all wrong’

Evening Times - - SPORT - Graeme Macpher­son

THE Bri­tish belt draped over his shoul­der was all that mat­tered to Lee McGre­gor. Late on Satur­day night deep in­side the Emi­rates Arena in Glas­gow, the Ed­in­burgh fighter was al­ready aware of the grow­ing furore over his split de­ci­sion points vic­tory over Kash Fa­rooq.

Many ob­servers felt that the Glas­gow man had done enough to win their ban­tamweight con­test by a few clear rounds. Fa­rooq’s man­age­ment team went as far as de­scrib­ing the out­come as a “rob­bery”.

As he par­tied and sang in his dress­ing room with his fam­ily and friends – The Hearts Song was giv­ing an air­ing by this Tynecas­tle diehard – McGre­gor, though, was clearly not overly con­cerned by pub­lic per­cep­tion.

Al­ready Com­mon­wealth cham­pion, the 22 year-old had just achieved a life­time am­bi­tion by be­com­ing Bri­tish cham­pion too. And all within eight pro­fes­sional fights.

Box­ing can of­ten be such a sub­jec­tive sport – ca­reers can be made or lost on the opin­ions of three judges – but the record books will show that it was McGre­gor who came out on top on this oc­ca­sion, whether he mer­ited the verdict or not.

His as­pi­ra­tion is to even­tu­ally emu­late the achieve­ment of his close friend and for­mer sta­ble­mate Josh Tay­lor by be­com­ing a world cham­pion. Gain­ing the Bri­tish Lons­dale Belt takes him a step closer to re­al­is­ing that goal but he knows he still has a long way to go. For now, though, he just wants to savour the mo­ment.

“A lot of peo­ple were tip­ping Kash to win,” he said. “And I proved ev­ery­one wrong. I stood with my team be­fore the fight and said: “I’m not com­ing back to this chang­ing room with­out that Bri­tish ti­tle”.

“I’ve been dream­ing about this belt since I was a young kid. I promised my dad, when I was a young boy, that I was go­ing to win it. Now I’ve done it.

“It prob­a­bly is achiev­able for me to do what Josh has done. But I’m 22. I think I need a few more learn­ing fights be­fore I go on to world level.

“I feel like I could win the Euro­pean ti­tle now. But it’s what I do af­ter that. I’ll leave it to my man­age­ment.”

McGre­gor be­lieves he won the fight fair and square – even af­ter hav­ing a point de­ducted for per­sis­tent push­ing – but can un­der­stand that not ev­ery­one will see it that way.

“It was never in doubt. I had a good start. In the later rounds I felt he was sneak­ing the rounds with his tippy-tappy stuff on the in­side.

“I felt when I was stick­ing to my box­ing I was win­ning the rounds quite clearly. He’s very clever and very ed­u­cated and I had to just stand and grind it out with him now and again.

“But I had a strong fin­ish and I think that won me the fight. It was a gru­elling, hard fight. I knew if I went on so­cial me­dia then half would say Kash by a round, the other would say McGre­gor by a round. It’s about opin­ions.”

McGre­gor’s steep as­cent to this point has been ac­com­pa­nied by on­go­ing tragedy in his per­sonal life. Hav­ing lost his mum, grand­fa­ther and a close cousin in re­cent years, the build-up to this fight was also marred by the death of his aunt.

He has al­ways tried to use those losses as mo­ti­va­tion but now hopes he can be cat­a­pulted for­ward by suc­cess not heart­break.

“I’ve had a ter­ri­ble week to be hon­est,” he ad­mit­ted. “I want to give a spe­cial men­tion to my aunty Tracey. She passed away last week­end.

“She was my dad’s sis­ter and it was her birth­day on Satur­day. So it’s been a bad week and I’ve just had to block it out. Hear­ing the words ‘and the new’ and be­com­ing Bri­tish cham­pion made it all worth it.

“Fight week is very hard. Then hav­ing that news too has made it a hor­ren­dous week again. It’s just been tragedy, tragedy, tragedy.

“I feel like I want to use it as mo­ti­va­tion and do them proud but I want to move on, too. I want to talk about me and my suc­cess rather than us­ing that tragedy.”

Fam­ily life will again dom­i­nate his im­me­di­ate post-fight plans, this time in a wholly pos­i­tive way.

“I’ve been away from my daugh­ter and it was her first birth­day on Thursday. We’ve got a dou­ble cel­e­bra­tion next week­end. We made it the fol­low­ing week so we could both cel­e­brate and I can’t wait to cel­e­brate with her,” he added.

There was, un­sur­pris­ingly, less joy emerg­ing from the neigh­bour­ing dress­ing room. With Fa­rooq be­ing at­tended to for a num­ber of cuts sus­tained from head knocks, it was left to his man­age­ment team and trainer to give their thoughts on the out­come.

“There’s no point beat­ing about the bush here, that’s a rob­bery in any­one’s lan­guage,” said Ian McLeod from his man­age­ment team.

“Kash was all round the better fighter. Lee fought a great fight but he got beat by the better fighter – the only thing was that the judges saw it a dif­fer­ent way. The watch­ing pub­lic saw it all and you can’t kid the pub­lic.”

Trainer Colin Bell­shaw was also stunned but said they would con­tinue to pre­pare Fa­rooq for more big fights.

He said: “We are all gut­ted. I thought it was com­fort­able for Kash. I thought he was three or four rounds up. I’m flab­ber­gasted and be­wil­dered by that last judge’s score­card say­ing it was 115-112.

“There was noth­ing I saw that made me think Lee had won it.”

Ed­in­burgh’s Lee McGre­gor, left, de­feated Glaswe­gian Kash Fa­rooq on Satur­day night to seal the Bri­tish ban­tamweight belt

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