Lee McGregor, Barry and Shane McGuigan discuss link-up
McGregor has been plagued by family tragedy this year – whilst competing at the highest level in the unpaid ranks. “I lost my mum earlier on in the year, my grandma and we’ve lost my cousin at 32 years-old,” he says candidly.
“I was fighting through all of this, having to still train, still drag myself to training camps and make weight. But in my head now I know it has done me good – mentally I’m not gonna have to face anything as tough as what I have.”
Showing incredible resilience, McGregor has been boxing continuously at bantamweight (56kgs) – and achieving incredible feats.
The year started off with a second consecutive win of the Scottish senior national championships, followed by a win at the British senior championships, and culminating in a gold medal at the multi-national Belgrade tournament – beating the highest calibre of international opponents along the way.
These incredible performances then led to a somewhat bigger stage in June – the European championships in Ukraine, representing Scotland.
McGregor reached the 3rd round of the tournament – losing in a close decision to the home fighter from Ukraine. He had however beaten the reigning champion from Russia in the second round – which secured him a place at the pinnacle of amateur boxing, the World Championships, later in the year in Germany.
Sadly for McGregor his incredible run to the World Championships was ended by a tough decision loss in the 2nd round – which many thought he had won.
His endeavours had not however gone unnoticed – a boxing legend and Hall of Famer was watching him intently from afar – and was seeing potential. That was of course ex-featherweight world champion and now McGregor’s manager at Cyclone Promotions, Barry McGuigan.
Speaking of his decision to sign McGregor, McGuigan said: “I heard of a very special kid coming through, that was fast and doing great things so I had a look at him. I loved the way he’s a slashing, attacking fighter – but with intelligence.
“For me it’s simple, you invest in a young kid like Lee, physically and emotionally and in two or three years time he’ll already be British and European champion.
“Then I think he’ll be a world champion, and I wouldn’t be working with him if I didn’t believe that. What excites me about him is he’s young and 5ft 8 so he can develop and go up through the weights.
“He’s getting stronger, bigger and we’re gonna turn him into a slick, dynamite punching world-class fighter professionally. He’s already making terrific improvements and he’s got a fabulous personality, a very nice kid.
“Every day he’s in the gym with Josh Taylor, Chris Billam-Smith and Chantelle Cameron and they’re bouncing off each other, trying to be the best they can be.”
Their paths had first crossed in Scotland back in 2015 at a Josh Taylor fight, and McGuigan was informed of his status as Scottish and British amateur champion, instantly attracting interest.
It was no surprise that McGregor caught the eye of the McGuigans and others in the boxing game. His achievements as an amateur speak for themselves: Scottish novice champion, Scottish intermediate champion, Scottish elite youth champion, GB youth champion, 2x Scottish senior champion, 2x senior GB champion and 2x senior Belgrade international champion.
Remembering their first meeting McGregor says: “Barry said: ‘Nice to meet you, I’ll be watching you like a hawk.’ – I can remember clearly that’s what he said to me.
“I kept my head down, kept grinding and kept fighting and I was clueless to if he was keeping an eye on me or not. I had followed him on Twitter and he never followed me back! He must have been busy or something,” he laughs.
“Then one morning a couple months ago I just woke up and I had Cyclone Promotions followed you back out of the blue and he sent me a message saying can I have your number to have a quick chat with you, and I was buzzing.”
Subsequently McGregor was asked down to the McGuigan gym for talks and to do some work with highly respected trainer, Shane McGuigan. Having impressed in the gym – he was immediately offered a contract – presenting him with a difficult decision to make.
“The thing was my mind was set on going to the Commonwealth Games next year – I was almost guaranteed going as number one on the sheet, so I thought this is a bit bad timing,” McGregor says.
“But I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to come down and do a bit of training with Shane so I did that and loved it, saw the offer and was happy.
“I just thought, if I wait and go to the Commonwealth Games I would’ve had to sign a contract with Team GB and been tied in for four years. If I do this now by the time April 2018 comes I could be 4-0 as a pro and have improved massively under Shane so I agreed to it.”
His now trainer Shane McGuigan holds Lee’s potential in the highest of regards, he says: “He’s young, enthusiastic and willing to learn. Those are the biggest factors I’m looking at taking on young fighters. He’s definitely got the ability and only been boxing 5 years.
“He wants to be the best, he’s got range, he can punch and he’s got the height to go up through the weight divisions – he’s gonna be a star.
“Since we’ve been working together I feel like his power has improved a lot – everything has come on leaps and bounds and he’s only 30% of the fighter he’s going to be. He can definitely be world champion.”
McGregor’s year in terms of boxing has been incredible – fighting non-stop at the highest level as an amateur. Yet 2017 is a year he is happy to put in the past after a blight of family tragedy.
He says: “It’s been the craziest year I’ve had, I’d say the worst year of my life since my mum has gone. I’m just trying to bring us happiness – my grandfather got cancer not long ago but he’s doing well and he’s fighting it and coming through it and I’ve signed with Barry so we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel.
“I’m just hoping that 2018 brings me and my family the happiness that we deserve for the year we have had. We are going the right way with Barry and Shane, I think they’re the best team around.
“I think they’re gonna work wonders with me and I believe I can go very very far in the sport so that’s what I want to do. I want to do it for my mum – I cant think of better motivation than doing my mum and that proud.”
Having been signed by Cyclone Promotions, McGregor is due to make his debut on November 11th in Edinburgh at the Highland Centre on the undercard of fellow Scot, Josh Taylor – and is ready to showcase his talent
– Words by Sam West for McGuigan’s Gym