Isaac Macleod

Reece Macmillan
Isaac Macleod has a background. He's not shy about it and talks openly about the troubles that have interjected his incredibly successful boxing career to date. At only 21 years old and with an unblemished professional career of five wins and no losses and a wardrobe full of amateur accolades he has the world at his feet, but it hasn't been plain sailing and at times his ship didn't just graze the rocks, it was washed ashore.
 
Going back to the start, Macleod tells me how he started boxing at the age of nine. An unsuccessful trip the the Youth Centre around the corner from his house (they wouldn't accept anyone until their tenth birthday) lead to a family member introducing him to the sport. "My cousin boxed for Sunderland ABC and said he would try to get me in, so I went up there with my brother Luke and my cousin Josh and they let me train there. They used to joke saying ‘tell us you’re 10 and I’ll let you in’ and it all started from there really" says Macleod. "I was watching Rocky films wanting to be a tough lad. If you watched Rocky you wanted to be a boxer, if you watched Bruce Lee you wanted to be a karate man!"
 
His link up with Sunderland ABC reaped some impressive reward. In ten years he picked up five English titles, three British titles, a European title and a silver at the world championships as well as Sportsman of the year. "I had a good run at Sunderland and that bond with the coach was great" Macleod says in a very understated manner. Such an array of achievements is almost unheard of as an amateur. He picks the highlight of his unpaid career as being a 16 year old, at the time unmotivated to go to the European championships. As he explains though, his ability to persevere paid dividends. "To be honest my coach asked me before I went to the Europeans, when I’d already had 17 fights that season, if I was looking forward to going. I had to say to him that no, I wasn’t. But when I got there I sucked it all in and looking back, winning the Europeans was the best I had felt as an amateur."
 
However the lifestyle of being a boxer at such a young age was taking its toll on Macleod. He didn't live the life of a standard teenager and personal tragedy had struck when he was just 14 with the death of his brother. A culmination of factors lead to the ship hitting the rocks and as he explains to me, almost never fulfilling his potential in the boxing world. "I was on the GB team and I was suffering from depression a bit. I quit boxing altogether and was going to go to the army and just be normal for a bit. I didn’t want it. I was sniffing drugs, getting involved with the police; everything was a bit too much for me. From me being young my friends were sat in knocked down building and they’re smoking dope while I’m sitting with my arms crossed and the odd one out. I think too much got hold of me and I just wanted to be like everyone else around my estate. It was for about six months or a year, I went right downhill to be honest. I fell out with my amateur coaches, I thought that was it. But I bounced back, I won another English title and that’s when I knew it was now or never to turn pro. Turning pro was something I had just always wanted to do. I’m one of those people who if I didn’t think I would win something or I’m not 100% committed then I wouldn’t do it in the first place. Why should I get my face punched in for absolutely no reason at all? You may as well get paid for it and get a name for yourself."
 
He credits his amateur coaches for providing the guidance needed to ensure that his potential didn't go unfilled. He speaks of them almost parentally, their assistance being instrumental throughout his formative years, "I want to thank my amateur coaches, Joe Purvis and Jimmy Richardson. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. From losing my brother as a 14 year old and having to box for the English title two weeks later to keeping me right; the things I’d seen as a 14 year old no kid should have to see. When I was suffering from depression and losing track of the gym, forgetting who I am, they got me back and looked after me really, really well. I can’t thank them enough. They’re the reason I achieved everything I did as an amateur and I dedicate everything to them."
 
With their help, as Isaac mentioned, he went on to secure another English title before deciding to 'turn over' to the professional sport. On 13th December 2014 he made his debut in the paid ranks at Hillsborough Lesiure Centre in Sheffield. Macleod hails from Sunderland, so although not a home debut it was at least not too long to travel. A stoppage win came again Gyorgy Varga and started what was to be a busy first 12 months as a professional fighter. He amassed five victories in total, making a bold statement within the British welterweight division. So how has he found the busy first year? "People say I’ve been busy as a pro, but to me that’s not busy. As an amateur I was fighting five fights in a week, now I’m fighting five fights in a year. It’s not busy at all. I’m one of those people who if I want something, I want it now. Rome wasn’t built in a day though so I just need to take one step at a time."
With such a hectic fight schedule compared to other blossoming talents, does Macleod see it as an advantage to have had a busy amateur career (over 60 fights in total) and having developed the ability to learn how to adapt in the ring to different styles? "Definitely. That’s why I think I don’t want to sit it out too much boxing against opponents not at a good level. You get used to someone who isn’t wanting to come at you or trying to win, then you get into a good fight and they start hitting you it’ll be like ‘WOAH, other fighters haven’t been doing that!’" he laughs. I ask if he feels like he has been challenged in the ring during the start of burgeoning career. "I’ve not felt any challenge yet from the opponents. I’m challenging myself in the gym; I’ve been switching southpaw to orthodox, getting inside close, boxing long or boxing short. I’m just trying to drill everything in that I can so when it does come to the fight where if someone is powerful and coming at me I can box long, or if they’re running away I can get in and make it short."
 
The welterweight scene domestically that Macleod is fighting in is at a peak. At the top of the tree sit Amir Khan and Kell Brook, one a former world champion now facing elite competition and the other a current world champion. Underneath sit plenty of familiar names; the likes of Frankie Gavin, Sam Eggington, Bradley Skeete. Internationally the weight division is stacked with talent. Floyd Mayweather may have recently hung up his gloves but the States has plenty of reinforcements including Keith Thurman, Shawn Porter and the blossoming Errol Spence Jr. So with such a plethora of names and talents in the 147lbs division, how far does Macleod see himself going? "I know for a fact I’ll win an English, British and Commonwealth title. It’s the European and stepping up to the World stage that’s the hard bit. I would 100% bet my life on winning a British. But stepping up from European to World level where you have the likes of Khan and Brook, it’s a ridiculous division when you get to that world level!" he says. However it is not a prospect that he rules out and is happy to talk about the opportunities it would present. "If you can build yourself up and box someone like that, it would be a privilege to box them. It would be a privilege to fight your way up to come from the estate that I am from to box for a world title or a big name like them, that would be incredible."
 
Macleod is a philosophical young man. Although his professional record may look like a fighter who is itching to build their CV quickly and make strides he is also a realist and accepts that the foundations need to be in place to ensure long term success. "I just want to start picking the belts up slowly" he says. "It’s like a sculpture, you have to chip away at it, you can’t just hack into it! I’m not just going to jump into the deep end. I don’t like talking about who I’m fighting or what I’m fighting for. If my manager says to me “you’re fighting such and such” then that’s fair enough, I’ll be ready to go. I’ll take it as it comes, but in the next 18 months I want to be right up there fighting the big names. I want to be chopping away."
 
Outside of boxing he tells me that he is a family man, happy to spend time "chilling out" with his loved ones as well as his girlfriend. He also unwinds by going shooting. Another way of filling his hours is a way of making sure that he doesn't lose his roots as he often returns to his old amateur club. "My little brother boxes there, so I like to go up there and see our lad. You should always keep grounded and not forget anywhere that you come from."
 
Macleod has undoubtedly had his challenges in the past. He has suffered and almost lost out on the ability to fulfil his potential, guided back by those amateur coaches who looked out for him. Now his ship is full sail and the wind is blowing in the right direction. A busy 2015 has laid solid foundations for a successful 2016. Keeping busy is integral to a young fighter and it is something that Macleod has managed better than most. With such a decorated amateur background and a focus and determination underpinned by his own experience of nearly having lost it all, Macleod has a bright future ahead that could surpass his incredible past.
 
Isaac wanted to thank the sponsors who are integral in support his career including H&M Decorators, Rocket Taxis and I M Roofing