‘2022 is going to be biggest year of my life’ says boxer Lee McGregor
It's approaching that time of year again when most of us start to draw up our New Year resolutions. Some can deliberate for hours, days, weeks, months even. But Edinburgh bantamweight Lee McGregor didn't pause for breathwhen he was quizzed over a Zoom call from Las Vegas last week.
"I believe 2022 is going to be the biggest year of my boxing career and possibly my life," he said without any hesitation. "Life-changing things are going to happen in 2022. I believe this is going to be the year I challenge for a world title."
The 24-year-old has already conquered Europe and made a successful first defence of an accolade he won in March. McGregor has been guided down the traditional route having firstly picked up the Commonwealth – and then the British title – after an epic battle and split decision win over Glasgow's Kash Farooq in November 2019.
The Capital fighter remains undefeated and will be hoping to continue that record – while successfully defending his European crown for a second time – when he faces Armenian Narek Abgaryan (15-1) at the Manchester Arena on Saturday, December 18.
So, what does the next 12 months look like for McGregor? Well, last week he signed a multi-fight co-promotional deal with Eddie Hearn' s Matchroom Boxing and Probellum, a partnership, he believes, will keep delivering the big fights both here in the UK and the United States.
Should he emerge victorious from next month's duel with Abgaryan, his next opponent is likely to be Farooq for the much-anticipated rematch between two of Scotland's finest.
"It was always looking likely that rematch between Kash and I would happen to be honest," McGregor explained. "But now having signed with Eddie it just makes it even more realistic.
"But I can't be overlooking anything so it's always the next fight that is the most important. I am fully focused on Abgaryan and defending my European title in style. I want to put out a statement and send out a message to the rest of the bantamweights and then we'll see what's what after that.
"It's no secret that the Farooq rematch is looking likely if we both come through our next fights. It's one that gets me so excited and gets me up in the morning pushing through those hard training sessions. I can't wait for it and I wish it was on December 18 but, I get it, it needs a bit more building up, get people talking about it more – it's a headline fight itself so it makes sense for it to happen in 2022."
He continued: "I knew Eddie (Hearn) was keen on getting me signed but we had options from a lot of promoters. But I was in no rush because I was enjoying doing what I was doing. I was headlining my own shows on the MTK cards and getting decent fights so there was no need to rush. I was in a comfortable position.
"I just kind of left everything to my team at MTK. We were going back and forth for a while. But Eddie was the one we decided to go with and I'm glad to be honest because I think he does a brilliant job with the fighters he has. He promotes his shows really well and obviously with DAZN launching it's just going to get bigger and bigger.
"I think it's a great opportunity for myself to showcase how good I am all over the world, not just in the UK.
"I want to be challenging for world titles the back end of 2022.
"I believe I am ready for the world stage but I need that bit more time too. I’m in no rush. These things are life changing and if it’s going to change mine, I wouldn’t hesitate. But I’m not deluded. I know I need a bit more as I’ve only had 11 fights."
And what about away from the ring? McGregor, who turns 25 on Christmas Eve, has a wedding to plan after proposing to long-term girlfriend Amber last month.
For now, though, he will spend the remaining week or so in Vegas before returning to the UK to finalise his preparations for his eastern European opponent.
And although he has had to contend with blood, sweat and tears while inside the Top Rank gym, situated just off the famous Las Vegas strip, he has found the time to squeeze in dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Hell's Kitchen with stablemate Josh Taylor and, Line of Duty star, Martin Compston.
McGregor said: "I’ve been sparring a couple American prospects, one is 7-0 and one is 3-0, two good kids and it’s gone well. With my style, I always get a wee bump and bruise. It’s been a great experience and I’m really soaking it up. It’s really improving me as a fighter. We’ve mainly been training in the Top Rank gym so we’ve been around Terence Crawford. It’s brilliant to be in the company of these guys and I’m soaking it all up.
"But I’m looking forward to getting the fight done and out the way before Christmas – whether or not I’ll have a wee bump or a bruise, that doesn’t bother me, I’ll get to spend time with my family and see my wee girl Maddie and enjoy it properly this year.
"Amber and I aren't in any rush to get married, she understands my career and our focus is that and then we’ll take it from there."