Edinburgh’s Lee McGregor admitted he was lost for words as he secured his fifth consecutive stoppage to become the new Commonwealth bantamweight champion at London’s York Hall on Saturday evening.
The 21-year-old put in a stellar performance to eventually get the better of the resilient Thomas Essomba in the 12th round following a gruelling contest that Cyclone stablemate Josh Taylor, who was carrying out media duties for Channel 5, described as a “class fight to watch”.
Class it was with both boxers in the shape of their lives and showing real intent in the early rounds.
Cameroonian Essomba, nine years McGregor’s senior and having represented his country at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, was a step up for the Scot, who had reeled off four straight wins since joining the professional ranks 12 months ago.
It is the first time McGregor has had to contend with some powerful blows to the face and body, but he handled it well.
McGregor had the height and reach advantage, but the first moment of controversy arrived at the end of the fourth round when Essomba appeared to catch the former Scottish and British amateur champion with a stinging left hook.
Referee Ian John-Lewis deemed it to be a knockdown but, on closer inspection, the two fighters seemed to get their legs in a tangle.
McGregor was adamant he hadn’t been touched and upped his game, possibly in anger, and Essomba suddenly found himself in deep water as the former Meadowbank boxer hit his range with some powerful left hooks to the head and body.
As Essomba began to tire, McGregor sensed the stoppage was his for the taking.
Another strong round in the 11th had the African clinging on for dear life.
He then retreated towards the ropes as McGregor produced a strong left uppercut at the beginning of the final round before the duel was brought to a halt little more than 60 seconds later. There’s no doubt McGregor, who is also the current IBF world youth champion, is a classy operator in the ring.
“What an unbelievable night Saturday was. It was 12 gruelling rounds and a cracking fight against a strong, tough man, but I still managed to get the knockout in the last round. I’m lost for words to explain how special it was,” McGregor said.
“A massive thanks to my team and my coach Shane McGuigan, who works tirelessly with me day in day out and everyone involved. I have the best support in the world.
“I genuinely couldn’t believe the reception I received and all the numbers that turned up. This is only the beginning. There’s big things to come and I’m really ready to crack on now.”
The personal tragedies from losing his mum and grandparents within the past 18 months have been well publicised but McGregor was quick to dedicate his latest victory to those who are unfortunately no longer here.
“I had my mum, my granda and my grandma on my shoulders in that ring,” he said. “Where was I getting that energy from in the 12th round to keep fighting on?
“I had them behind me looking over me and I want to dedicate that to them.
“My granda was my biggest fan, my mum – all of them. I miss them so much but that fight and belt – I dedicate that to them.
“I hope they’re looking down and are proud.”
Meanwhile, Airdrie heavyweight and top-of-the-bill Martin Bakole suffered the first defeat of his professional career when he was stopped by Michael Hunter in the tenth round of his IBO Inter-Continental title duel.