For those uninitiated to Macaulay McGowan, he is a 24-year-old English middleweight with a professional boxing record of 13-0-1. An exciting front-foot pressure fighter with a seemingly-tireless-aerobic-capacity and a left hook that when thrown to the body simply doesn’t know how to miss.
A quick Google search will tell you that he is now working with respected trainer, Ben Lancaster, at his ‘Shed’ gym in Manchester, alongside the BBBofC Central Area middleweight champion, Jack Kilgannon; an opponent he is due to fight on August 31st at the Oldham Leisure Centre against Latvia’s Kristaps Zulgis.
The pitfalls of the internet meant BoxRec and cursory searches will only give you a superficial representation of McGowan, digestible headlines upon which you can form a disposable opinion or convenient categorisation, but tell you nothing of the man behind the statistics, his journey outside of the ring, or what’s going on out-of-sight internally as he readies himself for his second middleweight fight, following 13 professional fights across the welter-and-super-welterweight divisions.
Talking to him reveals a remarkable tale of overcoming adversity, personal redemption and the limitless possibilities achievable if you show courage and place unfaltering confidence in yourself.
McGowan’s professional career began on the 10th May 2014 with a points win over Jason Nesbitt at the Olympia Theatre in Liverpool. By September 2017, he had amassed a professional record of 12-0-1 and was in line to fight for the English super-welterweight title. Professionally, things were ascending well, privately Macaulay was equally blessed, welcoming his daughter Florence into the world in September 2016, a month before his contentious draw with Jez Smith.
Yet by the end of 2017, things had slowly started to unravel.
“I left Arnie [long-time trainer Arnie Farnell] and couldn’t really find anywhere else. I slipped into having a few mental health issues.”
One may be forgiven for assuming that these were minor mishaps that were soon rectified, but in actuality McGowan would 'nearly lose everything' and would not fight again for nearly two years. Articulating the issues he faced with the same bravery and directness that he would stalk down an opponent, he describes of 'being stuck in the mud, unable to look forward or backwards', of 'not feeling like me', and of knowing he 'definitely wouldn’t box for a while'.
“I was going to work and then driving home and sitting in the car, not wanting to get out and go home. I wasn’t sitting there to feel better, but it was just too tiring to get out and pretend to be a different person.”
He sought escape, as do many, through the vices of excessive drink and ‘partying’.
“I was going out and acting like a dickhead, but I’m not really that person and never have been…my girlfriend pretty much left me…I nearly lost everything during that period.”
He describes his rock bottom as coming whilst on a family holiday in Tenerife, where despite being away with his girlfriend and daughter, he was primarily preoccupied with the taking of antidepressants.
“I didn’t have nothing to be depressed about. I had a good job, the best family life, my daughter. I was on holiday in a beautiful place with the people I want all around me and I was having to take antidepressants. I thought this isn’t me here. I’ve got to change things.”
And change things he did. Returning home, he visited Ben Lancaster and went straight back in the gym. However, the period of drinking, partying and taking prescription medication had taken its toll. He now weighed an unrecognisable 15.5 stone, and so their initial goal was to get him fit again and back into a routine of training and fighting.
He never took another antidepressant from that moment and along with the renewed focus and routine, the camaraderie with gym-mates, Danny Wright and Jack Kilgannon helped him to the point where he found his mood improving almost immediately.
Ten months after he began training with Ben, he inspirationally returned in a four round middleweight contest against Paul Allison, winning on points at the Bolton Whites Hotel.
Macaulay credits boxing with providing the kind of oxymoronic benefits that are alien to those uninured to it, and who instead often criticise it as being barbaric and unnecessary. He talks of the healing effects and of the calm that can result from channelling and satisfying man’s innate desire for combat in an uncanny similarity to Hull super-lightweight, Tommy Coyle.
“I’m the sort of person who needs to have a fight to keep my focus. When I have a fight, I’m a whole different person. I’m better in my personal life. I’m a better dad and a better fiancée. I need to keep focus and keep moving from the next one to the next one.”
And it is his desire to keep moving forward that had him pushing his MTK management to allow him to appear on the upcoming Black Flash Promotions card on August 31st, so soon after his July 05th comeback. His opponent on August 31st will be 27-year-old Latvian, Kristaps Zulgi, a fight which excites Macaulay.
It will be his second fight training under Ben and ‘The Shed’ team, and represents a career once again progressing in the right direction. Privately, Macaulay is once again enjoying redemptive signifiers of success, now engaged to his enduring girlfriend Francesca, and with them expecting a second child.
On the benefits of his new working relationship, McGowan alludes to a compatibility in teaching and learning styles which was just not as synchronised and congruent with previous trainers.
“[Ben’s] always talking to me. He’s not so much changing my style but adding to it. He’s keeping me switched on. In sparring, he’ll say “good shot”, but he’s also showing me different ways to do things and different ways to prepare and throw a shot. He never shuts anything off and he’s not taking anything away.”
Macaulay’s aim is still to be English champion, having had to pull out of a title fight against Matty Ryan in 2017 with a bad back, but his characteristic belief does not allow him to stop or limit himself there. He has dreamed of being a world champion since he was a child and wants to move through the belts to that goal as quickly as possible.
“I want to win everything. I want to be a world champion. That’s my goal. To fight in August then November. To get a move on and get these fights.”
To talk to Macaulay now is to talk to a man who finally seems content within himself, a man who is aware of who he is and where he wants to be. The depressive demons he acknowledges as being present since he was a child, he now describes as being “dealt with”; and he does so with the same warmth and self-deprecating humour that endures him to his fans and boxing media alike. This is a man who has spent a long time fighting himself outside of the ring, and who now, with that battle won, wants to reconvene fighting others within it.
This writer wishes him every success in doing it.