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