HIS plan initially was to excuse himself from the dads’ race by claiming an injury. Leg, arm, head, any would do. Indeed, a single look at his face, still bruised from a fight on Friday night, and it would be hard for even the most competitive parent not to sympathise with Macaulay McGowan and allow him to sit this one out.

Yet the problem for McGowan was that his daughter, Florence, already a winner herself in the beanbag race, was having none of it. “Come on, Dad,” she said to her hero. “You have to.”

“I was quite bad,” McGowan said just moments after crossing the finish line at sports day. “I was Steady Eddy; came fourth out of eight. I was just outside the top three.”

Florence, his seven-year-old daughter, fared much better. She brought home the medals – or, in this case, stickers – and her father, standing on the sidelines, was happy just to watch her and embrace the transition from fighter back to regular human being.

Now free to eat what he wants, go where he wants, and carry out a role far more important than that of fighter, McGowan currently finds himself in that sweet spot following a fight – call it a honeymoon period – in which the adrenaline of the battle and its aftermath continues to fuel him ahead of the inevitable dump.

“I’m on a bit of a high actually,” he said. “I haven’t been able to sleep much. But eventually it wears off, doesn’t it? Everyone is buzzing and stuff now, and calling you a warrior and that, but that all fades away in the end and you’re left with just a loss. It does take time for it to settle down.

“It’s around this point, or in the next couple of days, I will accept the fact I have lost and it will hurt. But I crack on, man. I don’t get too down about it. I have a bit of a lull and that’s it.”

On Friday, McGowan went 12 rounds with highly-touted German Abass Baraou in a European super-welterweight title fight. That alone is perhaps noteworthy, particularly given Baraou’s reputation and McGowan’s career trajectory to date, yet the manner in which he pushed Baraou and won the hearts of fans ensured McGowan, 20-5-2 (5), went home feeling victorious even in defeat. On the one hand, yes, he had fallen short on his big night, but, on the other, in performing as he did, live on Channel 5, he received the kind of fanfare some fighters struggle to find with their hand raised.

“I try to have internal success,” he said. “I try to keep it all within me. If I give 100 per cent in training, and 100 per cent in my performance on the night, I have succeeded in what I wanted to do. That’s basically all I can do.

“It’s disappointing that my best wasn’t good enough. But, at the same time, it’s not in my control. I can’t magic the win out of nowhere. I can’t magic the skills to beat that lad on the night. I did my best in the fight and he was better than me. I’ve got to accept that and I do accept it. That’s how I get over a loss.

“The losses hurt, yeah, they do, and they always will, because I’m a competitor at the end of the day and I do want to win. But I have to accept it sometimes that you try your best and your best isn’t good enough. I know it’s not sexy and it’s not what you read in sports books, but it’s what works for me.

“That still doesn’t mean I accept the level I’m at now, or accept the boxer I am today. I will go away and work on the stuff that I need to work on. But if I was working on everything I needed to work on before the fight, and giving it my all, I can’t do anything more than that. If the fight doesn’t go my way, there’s not really much I can do, is there?”

Abass Baraou outpoints Macaulay McGowan

To say McGowan’s attitude to competition is refreshing would be quite the understatement. In thinking this way, the 29-year-old shows not only humility, maturity and understanding, but also an intelligence and confidence most would assume he is lacking given everything he has just said. True intelligence, after all, has as much to do with an ability to accept and deal with reality as it does anything else. Even confidence, this thing so many boxers both need and crave, is only beneficial if it is a confidence rooted in some kind of reality and an awareness of what is true and what is not. Otherwise, it is not confidence but delusion.

“I got a European title shot out of the blue and I think everyone thought Baraou would knock me out and it would be a quick, easy night for him,” said McGowan. “The scorecards (119-110, 118-110, and 117-111) might show it was an ‘easy’ night for him, but I know full well each round was competitive. All right, there was the odd round or two he won clearly, but the rest were all close. It was never easy for him.

“He’s not some nobody, either. He was a legitimate, solid, world-level fighter with a European title. I tried my best and it just wasn’t good enough.”

The Mancunian added: “I lost, but I’m not defeated. At one stage in my career, I never thought I’d be involved in fights like that one. But there I was headlining a great European title fight on Channel 5 and giving the fans what they wanted to see. It doesn’t really get much bigger than that for me. It was madness. I know I said that if I had won the fight it would have made my career, but even just being able to look back at that whole occasion – a European title fight against the WBA number two – is priceless. I would have done anything for that moment as a kid.”

As humble as they come, and certainly as real as they come, McGowan isn’t the type to dine out on a performance – whether in victory or defeat. Instead, as was shown on Monday, he is more inclined to break free from the ersatz world of attention and adulation and return immediately to what he does best and what he knows. In other words, as quickly as possible he wants to return to reality; the day job; real life.

“It wasn’t too bad,” he said of his first day back measuring and cutting plasterboard as a labourer. “I didn’t have to do too much. I was just doing some measuring for some plasterboard, then doing a bit of cutting and tidying up.

“Everyone (at work) was dead happy. Everyone was just talking about the fight and giving me a lot of praise. I enjoyed it. It’s nice to have that balance, see other people, and get that routine back in my life. Otherwise, you’ll just dwell on it.”

Before cutting up plasterboard, McGowan could be seen in Joe Gallagher’s boxing gym. It was there he stayed until 11.30 am and it was there he paraded and wore the only tokens of success he had taken home from Friday’s fight in Bolton.

“When I’ve had a big fight like that, and especially a loss, I just like to go in on the Monday and get it out of my system,” he said. “To be honest, I just wanted to wear the Grant gloves that I had. I wore Grant gloves in the fight and I’ve always wanted to wear them. I’ve always wanted them but would never pay for them. I took them home with me just so I could wear them in the gym.”

See. Who needs belts?


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