Rising boxing star Lee McGregor believes winning this weekend’s Scottish Championships’ 56kg title would move him a step closer to representing his country at the Commonwealth Games in 2018.
The 19-year-old will contest his first senior final against the 2013 champion, Lochend’s Ryan McCutcheon, at Ravenscraig Sports Complex on Saturday night. The former British youth champion, who trains at Meadowbank Boxing Club, was an absentee from last year’s championships due to a shoulder injury and admits he is eager to make up for lost time by claiming gold in North Lanarkshire.
There has certainly been a lot of hype surrounding the teenager of late with former WBO super featherweight champion Alex Arthur tipping the youngster as one of Scotland’s brightest prospects.
And, while all his training and months of preparation have gone into Saturday’s final, McGregor admits he has one eye on trying to cement his place with Team Scotland ahead of the Gold Coast games in Australia in just over two years time.
“This is the opportunity for me to mark that No.1 spot and keep a hold of it. I just need to stay there and not let anyone else take it off me,” McGregor said. “I want to go to the Gold Coast in 2018 and win gold for Scotland, that’s for sure.
“There has been a lot of talk about me so I now need to prove that I have a big future in the sport. I’ve sacrificed a lot to get this far so I’m going to grasp this opportunity with both hands. A lot of people have always wondered who is the better fighter out of me and Ryan so this is our chance to see who really is.”
McGregor knows his opponent like the back of his hand having trained regularly together right up until the turn of the year when McCutcheon, 21, opted to leave Meadowbank for a fresh challenge at Lochend. Despite his inexperience at this level, McGregor has been installed as the favourite.
“I’ve sparred hundreds of rounds with Ryan over the years and that isn’t exaggerating. I know him very well but I genuinely do think I’ve got the beating of him,” he said.
“I know I’ve never been in this position before but I can’t let the occasion get the better of me. I need to stay composed and get the job done.
“Ryan’s been there four times before so it’s something different for me but I’m sure I’ll adapt to it and do what I do best. It can only be a good thing that I’m going in as the favourite but I certainly don’t see myself as that. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe I’m going to win it because I do. But I need to deliver because a lot of people are expecting big things from me.”
McCutcheon, meanwhile, isn’t fazed by Saturday’s bout having been in this position since 2013. Since winning his maiden title back then at Meadowbank, he has subsequently lost back-to-back finals against 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Reece McFadden and Stephen Boyle.
McCutcheon is of the mindset, though, that the switch to Lochend in December has brought some fresh impetus to his game.
“I just felt I needed a change of scenery,” he explained. “I knew Lee was going to be making the step up so you’ve just got to look after yourself in this sport. But I’ve been here four times in a row since turning senior and, for some reason, I always end up the underdog going into the fight, no matter who I am against. People underestimate me but I go out there and hope to prove them wrong.
“Lee has got a big fanbase, he’s a good boxer and I’m not going to deny it so it will be a tough battle. But I’m there to win it and I’m going to win it. I last won it in my first year as a senior in 2013 and I’m wanting to do it again. We know each other inside out so it’s going to be who shows up and who doesn’t crumble under that pressure that will win it.”
McCutcheon says he is relishing being the last boxer to undertake his ring walk on a bill that is always considered the highlight of Boxing Scotland’s year.
“I love that we’re the last fight. That just keeps the anticipation in full swing,” he explained. “With me being in the blue corner, I know my entrance song is the last to play and the atmosphere is going to be incredible.
“I’ve got nothing to lose, all the hype is on Lee. I’ve been having visions of him crumbling under the pressure but we’ll see come Saturday night.”
THE LOCAL CHALLENGE AT RAVENSCRAIG
Bout 1: 91+kg David Sim (Dunfermline) v Adam Saleta (Livingston)
Bout 2: Female 48kg Lucy Pritchard (East Lothian) v Emma McCulloch (Glenrothes)
Bout 3: 64kg Sean Spence (Meadowbank) v Robbie McKechnie (Greenock)
Bout 5: Female 64kg Elaine Greenan (Livingston) v Megan Reid (Inverness)
Bout 8: 81kg Kevin Kane (Dennistoun McNair) v James Nelson (Lochend)
Bout 10: 52kg Reece McFadden (Forgewood) v Matthew McHale (Lochend)
Bout 12: 56kg Lee McGregor (Meadowbank) v Ryan McCutcheon (Lochend)