THE last time Manchester’s Macaulay McGowan boxed outside of Britain he found himself in Madrid, Spain going 10 rounds with former world middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Next, in a fight not half as glamorous but no less important, he will on March 11 embark on a trip to another iconic European city in the form of Paris, where McGowan is scheduled to meet the unbeaten Farrhad Saad, 8-0-1 (0), on Boxxer’s very first non-UK show (headlined by Tony Yoka vs. Carlos Takam).
“Joe (Gallagher, trainer) put it to me at the start of last week and I said to him, ‘Yeah definitely,’” McGowan told Boxing News. “Luckily, we got it over the line and I’m really happy about it. It’ll be nice to box in Paris, of course, but we are there to do a job and win, most importantly. Hopefully Paris will be my new favourite city after it’s all over.”
At this point in his nine-year professional career, McGowan, still only 28, is eager for the kind of breakout win required to take him to the next level, having hoped an upset win over Martinez would have done the trick in January 2022. Instead of that, McGowan was soundly beaten on the cards and left Madrid with only the memories of the occasion and lessons from the fight.
“I spent most of last year reflecting on it, to be honest,” said McGowan. “Anyone who listened to me would have to put up with me telling them I boxed Sergio Martinez, so I made a New Year’s resolution going into this year that I wouldn’t keep going on about it.
“It’s like Tommy Shelby (from Peaky Blinders) said, ‘The past is not my concern.’ It happened, I got the lesson from it, and I know where I went wrong. I can look back now and admire how good Sergio Martinez was, but the fact I boxed him won’t define my career. I feel like there are many more big nights to come for me and, when it’s all over, people will be able to look back at that Martinez fight and say, ‘Wow, that was really the catalyst for his improvement.’
“In terms of what I learnt from it, well, I learnt to keep my hands up. Also, the way he controlled things, I kind of got sucked into his game. It was like the grandmaster versus the bull in the end.”
Unfortunately, because he came up short in Madrid, McGowan had to go back to square one. This meant he would spend the next 12 months continuing to learn from Joe Gallagher, his new coach, and it also meant he would have to continue working as a labourer between sessions in order to supplement his sporadic income from boxing with something a little more consistent.
“I actually enjoy it,” he said. “I like knowing that I provide for my kids and stuff.
“Usually I train in the morning, come to work, and go straight from work to do sprints with Joe. Three times a week we’ll do that and then I’ll do another session on Tuesday and Thursday.”
The good news for McGowan is that as well as having regular work he has also been kept busy in the ring since that defeat against Martinez in early 2022. Since that night, in fact, he has fought three times, albeit against inferior opposition, and such activity, he believes, stands him in good stead not only in his next fight but in more general terms.
“Fighting regularly keeps me focused in the gym and keeps me grounded,” he explained. “I didn’t fight in the home corner for a long time and now all of a sudden I’ve had to sell tickets again. It just keeps you in the gym, where most of the hard work is done. As for the fights, I’m beating opposition I should be beating, don’t get me wrong, but it’s another opportunity under the lights to show what you’ve been working on in the gym.”
With another significant fight now on the horizon, McGowan’s training has of course been kicked into overdrive in recent days. He now senses the opportunity; the opportunity to become the first person to beat Farrhad Saad in the pro game and, with the fight potentially shown on Sky Sports, even greater opportunities in the future.
“I’ve looked at videos of him (Saad),” said McGowan, 17-3-1 (3). “He seems like a pretty good, pretty elusive and stylish boxer. He has a good amateur background. He’s had a bit of inactivity as a pro whereas I’ve been pretty active of late. I’ve got some good momentum again in my career and I feel like this is a good fight for me because of that.”
Touching on the absence of a stoppage win on Saad’s record, McGowan said, “Records can suggest someone doesn’t punch and then you get in there and realise the record was lying. In a boxing ring every punch hurts really. But he seems more elusive than anything. He likes to be a bit cocky. He’s quite a cocky fighter actually. I’ve just got to handle that on the night. I can’t let someone’s actions dictate my emotions or what I’m trying to do. That’s a big part of what Joe wants his fighters to do: stay disciplined and focused. Since I joined him 18 months ago, I think I’ve made some really significant changes. Hopefully I get to show that in the fight and come out with the win.”
Ever the realist, McGowan knows he will once again be the underdog on March 11 in Paris. He knows, too, that he will be in the away corner and therefore to some extent expected to lose. Yet he is also a different fighter now that he was before. A fighter more prepared. A fighter with belief.
“I’m expecting a hard fight, to be honest,” he said. “I think it will be a battle of minds and then probably a battle of wills. I’m prepared for both, though. It’s what I love.”