MARC McLaughlin walked away from the Europa Hotel on Friday night in utter disbelief as he saw his hopes of representing N. Ireland at the Commonwealth Games dealt a fatal blow.
The 21 years-old Aberfoyle lad, who boxes out of the Dockers Club in Belfast, felt he did enough to claim the Ulster lightweight title against two time Ulster champion, Joseph Fitzpatrick (Immaculata ABC).
However, what was supposed to be the biggest night of his amateur boxing career turned out to be the worst.
The former St Mary’s clubman had good reason to question the judges decision as his quality blows and superior workrate throughout three relentless rounds of boxing could easily have swayed the scores in his favour.
When Fitzpatrick’s hand was raised in glory after three tightly contested rounds, McLaughlin was devastated as his hopes of taking part in the Glasgow Games this summer were crushed.
So much so that the Derry man is contemplating walking away from the amateur game and turning professional.
McLaughlin and his grandad, Mickey Glackin had already approached former world champion, Ricky Hatton after a chance meeting in Belfast recently, and discussed the possibility of the Derry man joining the ‘Hitman’s’ gym in Manchester.
Clearly not seeing the fruits of his labour in the amateur game, McLaughlin feels it could be the right time to cross over into the professional trade.
“You put so much into training for two months before a fight. I don’t go out with my mates, not seeing your family and it’s hard,” said a devastated McLaughlin.
“You have to take it on the chin and move on though. I talked it over with my granda and I’m going to sit and think over things in the next couple of weeks.
“I’ve been thinking about turning pro in the summer. There’s no point in going through all of this and not getting paid for it and not getting decisions.
“My granda has a lot of contacts as far as the pro. game is concerned and I’ll look over that and contact a few people and see what happens.
“If I can then I’ll be going over to England. Probably Manchester. My granda was very friendly with Ricky Hatton when he was in the Dockers Club just before Christmas after the Carl Frampton fight.
“And my grandad was asking if he could take a look at me because I was thinking about turning pro. He gave my granda his number and told him to bring me over to his gym and see what happens.
“There’s a few people you could go to but I’m going to have to think it over and whatever’s best for me that’s what we’ll do.
“I think the pro game would suit my style. I might as well take a chance and make a bit of money for myself. If I got in with a good camp I could excel to a completely different level.”
“Derry is crying out for a professional boxer and I think I can do it. People think I’m exciting to watch so why not give it a go and see what happens.”
As far as Friday night’s result went, McLaughlin was gutted that he didn’t get the decision despite what he felt was a quality performance.
“I would have thought I won the first round comfortably. But I found out afterwards that the judges didn’t give me the first round.
“The second round I caught him with three or four straight shots and followed up on them and it turned into a bit of a fight in the second.
“He didn’t catch me with any clean punches and I thought I got the better of him in that round as well. In the third it was even enough.
“I watched the fight the next day a couple of times on video and the more I watched it, it looks obvious that I won it.
“For a two time champion he didn’t look anything special. It just seems harder and harder each year to get a decision in the Ulster Championships.
“I’m gutted at the minute but I did my family proud and the support that I got was unbelievable,” he added. “There was about 40 or 50 Derry people there and the support was fantastic.
“If I had of performed the way I did in the semi-final and lost then I wouldn’t have too many complaints and would have probably sat back and thought about hanging up the gloves.
“But I turned it on last night and I gave a brilliant performance and it swayed the other way.
I’ve a bright future ahead of me because I’m only 21 years old.
“There was so much at stake. People think it’s only the Ulster Championships but that was the biggest fight of my life.
“If I had of won that I could have went to the Commonwealth Games and who knows I could have got a medal and got an unbelievable professional contract after that.
“I have to think it over with my family. I’ll never give up even if I don’t turn pro. I’ll keep knocking on the door.
“It will eventually come to me because I’m good enough and everybody seen that on Friday night.
I’m up there with the best of them. If the right move comes along and I can turn pro then hopefully I will.”