BY NOW, I could be a world champion with three or four houses. I’m not, through no fault of my own. People don’t realise what I’ve been through. I must be the unluckiest boxer in the world, but my saying is: ‘Tough times don’t last, tough people do.’
I was on a roll. I achieved so much early on in my career. I was British, Commonwealth and European (bantamweight) champion after only 10 fights. I took on every challenge they put in front of me and I smashed it. I came through every obstacle.
Look at where Thomas Essomba (who McGregor beat for the vacant Commonwealth strap in October, 2018) is now. He’s the European champion. I beat him over 12 rounds in only my fifth fight. I hadn’t been past four rounds before. I took the risk and I’m still the only one to stop him (in 12 rounds).
Then there was Kash Farooq (for Farooq’s British title in November, 2019). People were saying he was going to be world champion and I beat him in an exciting fight. I didn’t just win fights, I excited fans as well. People tell me the Farooq fight was one of the best they’ve seen. That fight will be talked about for years and years to come. I came through those fights early in my career.
I went from that to nothing. I find it hard to explain everything that’s happened. I have signed contracts that should have changed my life – and then nothing I was promised materialised.
I was going to defend the European title on the Dereck Chisora-Joseph Parker II undercard (in December, 2021), but my dad had an accident and I couldn’t go through with it. I agreed the rematch with Farooq and that was life changing, financially. But Kash had to retire. The next two or three years after the Farooq fight could have set me up for life.
I had a world-title eliminator against Jason Moloney ripped away from me and the fight with (European champion Karim) Guerfi fell through three times because of Covid. I was in London away from my family for six months before we finally fought (and McGregor won in the first round in March, 2021).
I have missed time with my daughter (Madison Blue) waiting for the Guerfi fight. I could have spent that time with my family, but I didn’t. I was back and forth to London for training, spending money I didn’t really have and I had a mortgage to pay.
I don’t think many fighters would have got through what I went through and nobody would have blamed me if I had walked away, but I stayed in the gym and kept waiting for some light at the end of the tunnel. There didn’t seem to be any until I signed with Wasserman nine or 10 weeks ago and now I want to get back to where I was. I feel that I’m still young. I’m still only 26 years old.
I know I’ve taken on a tough fight (against Erik Robles in Edinburgh on July 21). We know what we are getting from a Mexican. They come over here and fight for their lives. But these are the fights when you see the best of me. I could have had an easier fight, but then you wouldn’t get the same performance from me.
Ever since I was an amateur, I was always chucked in at the deep end. I beat Sunny Edwards for the British Youth title (in 2014) in only my 12th fight when he had around 50 or 60. I shouldn’t really have been fighting him, but I beat him and my 14th fight was in the World Youth Championship.
My old amateur gym was at the old Meadowbank Sports Centre. (The venue was knocked down and rebuilt and stages the McGregor-Robles fight). I had a lot of amateur success there. That was where I beat Sunny Edwards. I had a business and administration apprenticeship at Edinburgh Council at the time and that was the fight that got me on the Great Britain squad and got me paid for boxing.
I have only good memories of the place. It’s going to be loud in there. It’s a summer’s night in Edinburgh and there haven’t been too many boxing shows there to look forward to for a while. I went to a couple of Alex Arthur fights there and the atmosphere was unbelievable.
I’m excited about the future again. I want to show everyone that Lee McGregor’s back.