By: Oliver McManus
Glasgow was finely poised last night for what promised to be a tantalising fight between Kash Farooq and Lee McGregor. The relatively novice pair, twenty fights between them, had seemed destined to face each other sooner or later and the occasion didn’t disappoint. Farooq’s British title, defended three times, and Lee McGregor’s Commonwealth belt (second defense) were on the line.
The first round was relatively tepid as both men looked to suss each other out. McGregor tried to piece slashing combinations at times but the gliding movement of Farooq made him miss. The Commonwealth champion dipped his way in and out, under the extended arm of his opponent.
Farooq continued to puzzle with his movement as the tempo heightened. McGregor rallied with flurries of punches but his most successful shot was a lurched, straight right thrown with real vigour. There was plenty of missing involved in the opening rounds; McGregor made to look wild with his swings by his opponent’s elusive movement.
When the Commonwealth champion was able to set his feet there was significant spite applied to his punches. Farooq looked to have settled the quickest with a composed body of work in the face of a lot of clinching. A crisp left hook struck McGregor brash across his face in the third to momentarily snap his head back in an early sign of Farooq’s power.
The Renfrewshire Boxing Club product was fighting at an ideal range; dancing his way up close to prevent any meaningful jab from McGregor and really digging into the body. The opening half of the bout went largely Farooq’s way as he looked breezy and relaxed.
In the seventh round McGregor began to push forward with more aggressive intent. The cut of Farooq was worsening, sustained in the fourth, and confidence started to flow for his Edinburgh-born opponent. He was no longer finding success with single punches but starting to land consistently with combinations. Farooq, for his part, remained mobile in dipping the knees and turning the body. A big surge from McGregor saw him take the round after a considerable effort.
Still the body movement of Farooq posed questions of McGregor’s variety. Good, strong punches were coming his way but not often enough to start clawing back at the tide. McGregor was looking to load up and punch down as Farooq twisted and turned.
Both fighters were sinking their feet into their canvas and fighting with conviction – more so as the fight progressed. It was the more imposing stature of McGregor that held up better as the rounds went on; whilst Farooq was still nipping around he was slightly slower than at the beginning. Crimson was flowing from his cut – near the right eye – and the punches followed. McGregor persisted in looking for heavy shots to get his weight behind. Farooq was satisfied with his chihuahua-esque work rate.
The tenth round saw McGregor landing fervent punches. Farooq still trudged forward but McGregor was adapting and holding his feet. A good right hand caught Farooq slightly unawares and it was a strong round from the Commonwealth champion. He fought at a resurgent rhythm and was rallying in the final rounds. All good until Victor Loughlin docked a point for persistent holding and not undeserved.
There is often a danger of fights as hotly anticipated as these being half-cooked but this was a pie full of heart. McGregor needed a strong finish and he responded in kind. He would catch Farooq with hefty shots in response to the cunning craftmanship of Farooq. The pressure from both men was unbelievable who mustered all their heart to put it on the line.
Onlookers for the most part had Kash Farooq winning a remarkable contest. The judges scored it with a tang of controversy – 114-113 to Farooq, 114-113 to McGregor and 115-112 to McGregor. Reaction to the decision was sour but, regardless of result, a rematch would have been high on the list for 2020.