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Lee McGregor beats Kash Farooq by split decision, with plenty of controversy

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Lee McGregor edged Kash Farooq on the cards for the British and Commonwealth bantamweight titles.

Lee McGregor v Kash Farooq - British Bantamweight Title Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group via Getty Images

“I’m absolutely over the moon,” McGregor stated on Saturday night, following a 12-round domestic blockbuster with Glasgow’s Kash Farooq. Inside a sold-out Emirates Arena, the Edinburgh boy had transformed into a man over 36 minutes of relentless action, adding the British title to his Commonwealth strap at 118 pounds.

This decision wasn’t without controversy. Winning on the cards after the judges scored the fight 113-114, 114-113, 115-112, the 22-year-old exploded with joy in the ring with his jubilant team. Held aloft in front of the heavily Glasweigen crowd, McGregor had upset the odds as well as the locals by pinching the unbeaten record of Kash Farooq.

Farooq – the former British bantamweight titleholder – looked to have done enough in the fight to get the nod from ringside. With accurate power-punches in the first half of the scheduled 12 rounds, the 23-year-old looked comfortable dealing with the size and length of McGregor as he launched attack after attack to the body of “Lightning”.

Using rapid combinations coupled with seamless footwork gliding in and out of the pocket, Farooq – born in Pakistan, fighting out of Glasgow – fought smart while setting traps for McGregor to walk into. A majority of his best work came fighting on the inside, with overhand rights and punishing left hands connecting with real venom to the delight of the home crowd, with McGregor showing a solid chin and authentic bravery throughout the testing opening stanzas.

McGregor’s uppercut looked his most dangerous weapon as the middle rounds ticked by with Farooq maintaining his position as the aggressor in the fight. The left hook of the British champion was finding the target with precision, with the Edinburgh fighter forced to pick his attacks while back-pedalling towards the ropes.

A switch in stance in the ninth round proved pivotal for McGregor’s chances. Turning southpaw, McGregor utilised a wafting right hand which managed to catch Farooq on occasion at the start of the three minutes. The Glaswegian continues to pile forward, but with a slashing cut to the left eye causing him problems, McGregor’s right hand proved purposeful in its attempt to trouble Farooq’s vision further.

McGregor was the aggressor in the championship rounds, but after persistent fouling, Victor Loughlin deducted a point from the younger man leaving Farooq, seemingly, in a comfortable position with just two rounds to go.

McGregor remained undeterred, and with that snaking uppercut finding the target more often than not, the away fighter was able to finish the final rounds stronger out of the two, with each bruiser leaving everything in the ring during a pulsating domestic dust-up.

Hostilities were evident outside the ring between rival fans, but inside, both fighters showed dignity and respect worthy of such a competitive 50/50 bout. Sealed with a kiss from McGregor on the top of Farooq’s head, the final round began at a similar pace to the rest of the fight, with both young, hungry fighters believing they were three minutes away from glory.

The judges – as is so often the case in our sport – saw it differently to most. While McGregor undoubtedly had pockets of success throughout the fight, Farooq managed to control longer periods of the bout, sustaining pressure constantly throughout large portions of each round. His attacks to the body were a constant problem for McGregor who rallied well in the latter stages of the fight, but with one scorecard reading 115-112 (effectively scoring it 8-4 in rounds), it’s hard to find a case to agree.

McGregor’s gain was Farooq’s pain, as the 23-year-old relinquishes his British title. Calls for a rematch will be voiced in the coming weeks, with the reaction of the Glasgow crowd as well as Farooq’s team speaking volumes of the scorecards which have marred a brilliant night of boxing between two young prospects.

“I showed I wanted to win more and I think that’s why I got it,” McGregor clarified after the decision was made. “I’ve done this after just eight fights, and I’m only 22 years old.”

With a gap in the schedule of elite-level fights, free-to-air television in the United Kingdom grabbed the chance to showcase some of the lesser-known talents in British boxing this weekend.

BBC Scotland, as well as iFL TV’s YouTube channel, showed McGregor–Farooq, with Channel 5 scooping up Mick Hennessey’s latest show as Alex Dilmaghani fought to a contested draw with Francisco Fonseca inside East London’s York Hall. With the vacant IBO super featherweight title on the line, the away fighter from Nicaragua looked to have done enough after setting a hellacious pace inside the historic venue.

Both fights delivered inside the ring, but both were subject to controversy in the aftermath with judges seeing the contest through a confusing lense. A weekend of unfiltered boxing for the purist was once again tripped up by the subjective hurdle down the final stretch.

Both deserve rematches, and both earned the attention that this weekend was able to give them. In a throwback to the 90s, free-to-air 50/50s should be cherished as the dirty hand of modernity tries to steal the soul of our sport.