'There's no quit in me': Lee McGregor interview
After a "horrendous" 2017 outside of the ring, Scottish bantamweight prospect Lee McGregor tells Shaun Brown he is determined to make 2018 a year to remember...
Lee McGregor says he is not scared of losing a fight in a boxing ring.
Why should he be?
The Scottish bantamweight has already lost so much in the space of a year. His mum lost her battle to throat cancer (aged 44) in May last year and just a couple of weeks later he would lose his grandmother and a cousin. The day before he spoke to Boxing Monthly last month he attended the funeral of his grandfather.
In such a short space of time McGregor has had to grow up fast and step up to the plate for his family. The challenges and rigour of boxing seem almost minuscule to what he has experienced as a young man who celebrated the milestone of his 21st birthday before Christmas.
"Last year was horrendous," began McGregor after graciously speaking to BM. "2017 was probably the worst year of my life and I was glad to see the back of it. I thought 2018 was going to be my year, and I still believe it is going to be my year, but we've had the heartbreak of losing my Grandad a couple of weeks ago."
McGregor is using tragedy as motivation and is eager to bring happiness the way of his dad (Stuart), his older brother (Connor) and the rest of his family.
In the face of trying circumstances McGregor, who made his professional debut with Cyclone Promotions last November, has had to put it all to one side while he gets his head down and piles in the hours readying himself for the big fights that he hopes will begin to come his way in 2018.
Mentored by former world champion Alex Arthur, McGregor has been touted as Scotland's next big thing in a queue currently headed by Cyclone colleague Josh Taylor. A super lightweight who has been in blistering form during his 11 fights to date. Number 12 for Taylor comes tonight at Glasgow's SSE Hydro against late replacement Winston Campos. On the undercard will be fight number three (and his first eight-round contest) for McGregor.
"The British title [held by Josh Wale] is what I want, and that's what we're chasing and to prove I'm beyond that level," said McGregor of his ambitions.
"This year I want to get involved in big title fights as soon as. I want these belts. If you think, and know, you're good enough then why not try and get them as soon as you can? There's no point padding people's records going 13-0 and not fighting anyone. Ten, 12, 13, 14... there's guys out there who are 17-0 and who haven't fought anyone yet. I'm not scared of taking risks.
"People are scared to have a loss. If I go in there and get beat then so be it, I move on and keep fighting and fix things. If you're scared to lose you're not going to be prepared to take 50-50 fights, to take hard fights. I'll fight anyone."
His attitude is admirable. One that bears the signs of someone so young. It may seem foolish recklessness, but there is a self belief and steeliness about McGregor that hasn't been born out of the reputation he is building or the fact he is training with star trainer Shane McGuigan.
The lad from Saughton, who only had 43 amateur fights, has had the confidence and fight brought out in him thanks to the gruelling spars he would have with his brother at Clovenstone ABC. From there he would have his first fight at 15-years-old, it would have been younger had he not been "embarrassed to fight" due to having psoriasis and eczema. Further out his shell he came. Boxing brought him out more and more. Fighting in AIBA world championships and boxing amateur champions has proven to him he has the talent to belong at domestic championship level in the fledgling stages of his pro career.
What McGregor says he has more of, however, is heart. A vital tool that he will have to call upon, not at this novice part of being a fighting prospect, but one that will come knocking sooner than he thinks if his lofty pursuit of titles continues. In speaking to McGregor you could not help but sense he wants to show how much heart, how much bottle and how much resolve he has sooner than later.
"I'll never quit. There's no quit in me," he said. "I'm just as good a fighter on the inside as I am on the outside. If not, actually better on the inside. I'll leave the hard nights for when I have to stand there and fight and dig in. I can fight both ways. I know I can bite down on that gumshield when I have to. I have more heart than talent. People will see that in the coming years when I get in hard, gruelling fights. That's when I'll come out on top, definitely.
"I've still got so much to learn, and even Shane has said that. He says I'm probably only 30% the fighter that I'm going to be. That's so encouraging to hear. Look at the name I'm getting for myself already and that's nowhere near the fighter I'm going to be. I still believe I can win the British title now, as I keep saying, and Shane says I'm less than half the fighter I'm going to be. It's exciting. Who knows what I will go on to do."