LEE McGREGOR was named a highly controversial winner over Kash Farooq after 12 gruelling rounds to take the British bantamweight title while defending his Commonwealth bantamweight strap inside Glasgow’s Emirates Arena.
It appeared that Farooq had done enough to take the decision after bossing large sections of the contest but he was stunned to hear scores of 114-113 and 115-112 go against him. The scores were even more puzzling given that McGregor lost a point along the way. The third tally was 114-113 for Farooq. Boxing News scored the bout 115-112 for Farooq.
The result triggered some ugly scenes at ringside as local fans threw plastic glasses in protest. The contest, though, was a tremendous spectacle that showcased the considerable talents of two young Scottish fighters.
“I’m absolutely over the moon,” said McGregor. “I felt I had a strong start and Kash came on strong in the middle rounds. I was confident I had won the fight clearly but with the point off I wasn’t sure. It was the kind of fight where the opinion will be split 50/50 as to who people thought won.
“I showed I wanted to win more and I think that’s why I got it. I’ve done this after just eight fights and I’m only 22 years old.”
Lee McGregor, who has a had a torrid time in his personal life in recent years, revealed that his aunt passed away a week before the fight. It was a startling admission and highlighted his astonishing spirit.
McGregor, the taller man, opened the quicker of the two as he attempted to establish his jab and trailing right hand. A tidy left hook was the best punch of the session but Farooq, showing his class, had some success in close.
Farooq, born in Pakistan and based in Glasgow, swivelled into position in the second and scored with a huge right hand. McGregor retaliated but his animal instincts only put him in danger. Farooq, so elusive early on yet right in the pocket, uncorked a three-punch combination that hooked McGregor backwards.
In the third, Farooq, 23, smartly sent a right hand in as a decoy before leaping in with his left. McGregor tried to assert his strength on Farooq but the shorter man punished him with both hands. The assault varied towards the lean body of McGregor. As the Commonwealth champion looked to hold, Farooq fired in a left hook that was bang on target again.
The fourth saw more success from the increasingly impressive Farooq when he scored with a right hand – intelligently launched over his opponent’s lead – but McGregor bravely fought back, a left and a right salvaging some success. Farooq ended the session dabbing at a cut below his left eye.
McGregor’s uppercut landed on Farooq in the fifth but it didn’t deter the aggressor. The 22-year-old threatened to wilt late in the session as Farooq hammered his body. The approach from Farooq was varied and intelligent, his wise approach at times belying his years.
Even as McGregor backpedalled, as he did when caught in a corner in the sixth, Farooq pivoted and landed two left hooks. It wasn’t one-sided, McGregor’s uppercut remained his most reliable weapon, but it was the favourite who was unquestionably in command.
The momentum changed in the seventh. McGregor scored with three uppercuts and a right hook and Farooq was momentarily stunned. Farooq recovered but his defence, suddenly exposed, looked vulnerable as McGregor raided with purpose.
By the end of the eighth, Farooq was landing cleanly again. McGregor’s ribs were raided and he looked unsteady after taking a right hand. But “Lightning” courageously refused to be dominated, fighting back whenever it looked like a finish was nigh.
McGregor switched to southpaw in the ninth. He looked to hold as his stamina faded. Farooq was shoved out of the ring and McGregor was warned by the referee. Farooq’s face was bruised and another cut, just above his right eye, was far worse than the one he’d endured on his left side.
In the 10th, McGregor was behind his left jab again. A right hand tagged Farooq as he burrowed inside. But after several warnings he lost a point for fouls. Undeterred, McGregor landed another right that seemed to stun Farooq before he responded with a left hook. It was an intense fight and McGregor, heading into the last two rounds, was buoyed by his success.
Farooq’s work became untidy in the 11th. He was looking for the big shot, diving in. McGregor took advantage, his uppercut was again on target.
McGregor was tagged with a big right in the last session before Farooq again snaked inside and upped the pressure. But McGregor, so brave, found the energy to not only throw back, but finish the stronger of the two.
At the bell, McGregor was hoisted onto trainer Grant Smith’s shoulders. Farooq, too, was paraded as the winner before the judges had their say.