Lee McGregor confident he can lift Commonwealth belt at York Hall

Lee McGregor
Lee McGregor
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It has been a whirlwind 18 months for Edinburgh undefeated bantamweight Lee McGregor.

Not only has he taken to the professional ring like a duck takes to water, but the 21-year-old is preparing to welcome his baby daughter into the world in four weeks’ time.

The tide is finally beginning to turn for the 21-year-old, who lost his mum Elizabeth and both his grandparents last year, McGregor having previously revealed he had used boxing as a coping mechanism to help with the grief.

His biggest boxing triumph to date arrived in the summer when, in just his fourth bout, McGregor was crowned IBF world youth champion with a fourth-round stoppage of Tanzania’s Goodluck Mrema in Glasgow.

He now has the opportunity to add another belt to his collection when he faces off against former Olympian Thomas Essomba of Cameroon for the vacant Commonwealth title at London’s York Hall on Saturday night. However, Essomba, nine years his senior, is no pushover, by any means.

“He’s a very good fighter and is very strong,” McGregor, a stablemate of Prestonpans puncher Josh Taylor, told the Evening News. “He’s a tough man. I’m a young 21-year-old and still have a lot of developing to do; he is a fully grown man so I will need to use my head. He’s got the power to knock me out. He’s done it before so he has the ability to do it again.

“But I believe I will break him down eventually, although it certainly won’t be like my previous fights where I’ve just blasted them out. I need to be more clever. It might go late but I kind of want that chance to show people exactly what I’m about. It’s just about keeping sharp now.

“[My] Camp has been really hard. There’s been extra rounds of sparring, sprints – just everything has been stepped up a notch. No stone has been left unturned but I feel the fittest I’ve been so I can’t wait to get in there.

“It’s the first time I will have boxed at York Hall. I’ve been to a few shows but never been in the ring myself. It’s a small venue and I’ve got over 100 people coming down from Edinburgh for it so that’s something to look forward to.”

McGregor’s promoter and manager, Barry McGuigan, hasn’t been slow in complimenting the former Scottish and British amateur champion since taking him under his wing last August, and he believes McGregor has all the attributes to make it right to the very top.

“Essomba and his manager think this fight is too soon for me but this is my chance to prove to everyone otherwise,” McGregor said. “The fight is live on Channel 5 so I want to show that I am at this level already. I know I’ll have that opportunity to show what I’m made of on Saturday.

“I think it would be a bit disrespectful to look beyond Saturday as this fight isn’t going to be easy. The Hydro (November 3 on undercard of Josh Taylor v Ryan Martin in the WSSB quarter-final) may be a possibility but we’ll wait and see. If not, I’ll be happy to end the year as Commonwealth, and IBF world youth champion.”

Away from the ring things are coming together for McGregor and girlfriend Amber. The couple have recently moved into footballer and childhood friend Jason Cummings’ flat while the former Hibs striker plies his trade for Peterborough United in Sky Bet League One.

“Everything’s good on that front,” McGregor revealed. “Amber is due in four weeks so it’s not long now. I’ve got that extra focus that my wee girl is on the way so I’m really looking forward to spending time with her once the fight’s out of the way. Her wee room is all done. It’s been quite emotional looking at it.

“Jason is renting us out the flat so it’s been quite handy. We plan to get our own place soon but we just wanted somewhere for when the baby arrives and we can have it for as long as we want.”