By: Oliver McManus
Promoting a fight when it makes sense: not letting it “marinate” or touting it as “one for the future”. It’s a rare commodity nowadays within the sport but Lee McGregor vs Kash Farooq provides some fresh relief this weekend.
The contest is a bruising all-Scottish affair with the Commonwealth and British bantamweight titles at stake. Between them the pair have had just 20 pro bouts – eight in title fights. This particular piece of matchmaking has been in the works for a while and doesn’t look like disappointing.
Farooq is touted as the slight favourite (4/6) having defended his British title on three occasions. The likeable 23 year old has proven to be a spiteful fighter over the course of 2019 with sharp stoppages over Kyle Williams and Duane Winters. His power at 118lbs has been evident from the early stages of his career with stoppages in all but one of his five title fights.
Eighteen rounds, over the course of two fights, with Scott Allan provided the most learning for Farooq. Their first bout, at the beginning of 2017, was comfortable enough for Farooq; Allan tied him up at points to prevent more fluid combinations. In the second encounter, ten months later, Farooq was wary of this and demonstrated a strong adaptability to get his shots off and stop Allan in the eighth.
Kash has looked effortless, breezily comfortable, in his thirteen professional fights. His reign as British champion hasn’t been too testing; Iain Butcher the only challenger to go the distance. It’s through a lack of competitive matchmaking – he’s faced a former Commonwealth challenger, a two time British title challenger, an undefeated English champion and a Southern Area titleholder. The youngster has simply been in the right fight at the right time and his class has shone through; Lee McGregor will take him to the well, of that you can be sure, and then we’ll see how he responds.
Edinburgh’s McGregor will be in his second bout since linking up with Grant Smith having left the McGuigans earlier in the year. At 22 years old he has wasted no time in establishing himself among the upper rungs of the domestic bantamweight division; Commonwealth champion in just his fifth fight.
Against Thomas Essomba in October last year, to secure the Commonwealth belt, a few challenges were posed of the Scotsman but he responded acutely. He was able to show plenty of grit to finish the contest with just over 90 seconds to go and he has always got that relentless, full-blooded body of assault to get himself out of trouble. That finisher’s instinct to kill a fight given even half a chance has been apparent from the off; McGregor has been able to produce a stoppage even against the most traditionally durable of opponents.
The experienced amateur – a competitor on the World and European stage – isn’t a one-legged Shetland, however. His workman-like approach to as meticulous as it is thorough and he can respond to different propositions. He always appears itching to get involved and make something of nothing – to put on a show – but as he’s got older there’s the realisation that patience will benefit him. A violent hook to the midriff will sneak out at every possible opportunity but McGregor is wiser than his past performances and has a genuine maturity to his boxing nowadays.
This should be twelve rounds of pure, unfiltered violence. We saw what happens when willing participants go to war just the other week; Jay Harris and Paddy Barnes sharing four rounds of “hell and abuse” – to quote Harris. This is set to be a second serving of that spirit.
My advice for Saturday night; put the kids to bed, turn off the phone, tell your wife you love her and sit in front of the television with a pack of Jammie Dodgers to enjoy one of the most joyously unpredictable fights you’ll see all year.