IF, in some parallel universe, Manchester’s Macauley McGowan ends up in the Mastermind chair and not the boxing ring, there’s every chance his specialist subject would be the man he is scheduled to fight next: Sergio Martínez.
As a young boxer, McGowan was known to watch videos of the Argentinean over and over again and occasionally even modelled his style on the unique former world middleweight king. “I used to have a little crappy dongle stuffed into the side of my computer and all weekend I’d be watching different boxers,” he told Boxing News. “One day it would (Marco Antonio) Barrera and the next it would be (Érik) Morales or (Arturo) Gatti. Martínez was also one of my favourites to watch and, after watching him, I’d go to the gym on the Monday as a southpaw with my hands down, jumping around throwing big one-twos.”
Now 27, McGowan finds himself preparing to share a ring with a 46-year-old Martínez in Madrid, Spain, on Thursday (January 27). “I’ve just about got my head around it,” he said. “A few weeks ago, when I was on the pads, it was a bit strange to be talking about what Sergio Martínez does and trying to combat that. But now he’s just another opponent.
“Fighting him actually takes the emotion and ego out of it for me. If I fight someone the same age as me, up and coming, there’s a bit of emotion and needle there. It can cloud your judgement. With Martínez, though, I know what he is, I respect the guy, and I can literally look at him as a puzzle I have to work out. That puts me in a good place.”
McGowan learned of the Martínez opportunity on a random Sunday evening. His only role that day was that of father, yet Martínez, 54-3-2 (3), needed an opponent and McGowan was happy to fulfil that role, too.
“My son, who’s only two, had been playing on my phone and I think he’d been ringing the police or something, so I put it on airplane mode to stop that,” he explained. “Later that Sunday, around nine o’clock, I thought, Holy s**t, my phone’s been on airplane mode all day. I took it off and found a message about a possible Martínez fight.
“I was taken aback but thought, Yeah, I’ll have some of that. I messaged Joe (Gallagher, trainer) but he didn’t get back to me straight away. My missus said, ‘What do you think Joe will say?’ She could see I was getting excited and was scared Joe would tell me to leave it and I’d be down about it. But Joe’s from Benchill like me and this gave him the chance to take a kid from Benchill to Madrid and fight a living legend. I knew exactly what he’d say.”
The Martínez vs McGowan fight is many things. It is both surreal – a fight McGowan never expected – and the biggest opportunity of McGowan’s career. It is also a fight some will say shouldn’t be happening on account of Martínez’ age.
“He’s actually my mum’s age,” McGowan said, laughing. “I’m in two minds about it. When I see old fighters come back, I sometimes think, Screw them, what the hell are they doing? It’s a joke. Then other times I think, Fair play to them. Why the hell not?
“Martínez was obviously putting on his own promotions and thought, I’m in shape, I can have a few fights. I don’t know what his end goal is. That’s not for me to worry about. I’m just happy to have the chance to beat him.”
To aid this quest, McGowan, 14-2-1 (3), is placing his trust in Joe Gallagher, a man who once represented the same amateur club as Macauley’s father – Forum ABC – and boxed on the same show in 1981.
“People talk about the ‘Gallagher Effect’, and it’s a bit of a joke, but when you come here you do get that bit between your teeth,” McGowan said. “I can see how it’s effective. I’ve got a different mindset already. In six weeks’ time the mindset I have is going to be something else.
“Joe’s created an environment where it’s harder for you not to succeed than succeed. If you can’t make it there, you’ve got no hope. Every boxer hits the bag, and every boxer does things with intensity, but this is a different level of intensity. Now the focus is on you getting it right. It’s mint. You go away feeling so much better.”
Some might say the joker’s getting serious and they would be right. What’s clear is that McGowan is taking both this fight and his training seriously and, moreover, has discovered an extra incentive to grab life by its horns following the recent hospital admission of his grandfather, Kenneth Tallents, for pneumonia.
“Make no bones about it, I’m there to win,” McGowan said. “I’ve lost my last two fights and don’t want to lose again. It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. I have to win. I’m no journeyman who just takes fights. I’m a serious fighter.
“My wife and friends sometimes hate it when I’m joking around because they think I’m coming across as a bit of a joke. I like a joke but sometimes you can tip the balance too far and become the joke. Hopefully, teaming up with Joe shows people that I’m serious. If I went there and was messing around, Joe would kick me out straight away.
“I’m a bit of a nuisance, yeah, but I’m serious and this fight, although bizarre, is also serious. I’m there to win it. He’s not the man he was by any stretch, Martínez, but he’s still a live dog and I want that Martínez win on my record. All these great British fighters have lost to Martínez over the years but soon you’ll see on Boxrec: Macauley McGowan beat Sergio Martínez.”