The old Macaulay McGowan may have been inclined to fight with his heart rather than his head when he takes on talented European super welterweight champion, Abass Baraou, on Friday night.

“When I first got the fight it was all, ‘Oh my God, this is my big moment. My whole career’s come to this. A European title fight close to my hometown. The stars have aligned.’” the new McGowan told BoxingScene.

“Training goes on though and it’s just another fight and I’ve got to do the business. I could get sentimental about it but it’s just another opportunity that I’ve got and a fight that I’m confident on winning. I’ve just gotta approach it like a normal fight.

“God doesn’t care who wins or loses. You do the best you can in training, turn up and do the business on the night. That’s what I’m looking to do. In the eighth round, nobody is coming to help. It’s down to me. I’ve gotta apply what I’ve been doing, apply the training, apply my boxing ability and get the job done for once.”

As McGowan alludes, he has so far come up short in his biggest tests but he has never been in a better position to grasp an opportunity. 

McGowan, 20-4-2 (5 KOs), - who was a junior ABA champion and represented England as an amateur - has steadily improved since linking up with Joe Gallagher at Champs Camp in Manchester. On paper, results have been mixed but they bely the progress that the pair have made. The 29-year-old is a much more focused, well rounded fighter than the happy go lucky trier who rashly took - and lost - difficult fights with Tursynbay Kulakhmet and Keiron Conway within a month during COVID. 

He and Gallagher’s first fight together was a trip to Spain and a decision defeat to modern great, Sergio Martinez, in 2022. Last year, McGowan was forced to settle for a draw after appearing to outbox the unbeaten Farrhad Saad in Paris and then lost a tight split decision to current European middleweight champion, Tyler Denny. A fight McGowan still believes he shaded but one he acknowledges he should have won clearly. 

Since that loss, McGowan has stayed in the gym, stayed active on the small hall circuit and goes into this weekend’s fight fit, well prepared and knowing exactly who he is as a fighter. 

“Normally when an opportunity has come it’s been after some time out or it’s short notice or it’s at super middleweight or it’s a southpaw. There’s always something,” he said.

“I’m coming off three wins. I’m in the gym constantly and it’s at the preferred weight I’d choose. It’s not against a southpaw - three of my four losses have come to southpaws - and I’m not giving away size or strength. It’s come at a good time for me to excel.”

McGowan doesn’t have a straightforward task ahead of him. Baraou has long been touted as a potential star and the 29-year-old German won the title by outlasting and outpointing Sam Eggington in March. 

“I think he’s a really good fighter but there is a vulnerability to him and maybe I can exploit that. I’m not taking anything away from him, I think he’s really good and getting a 12-round decision against Sam Eggington is no easy feat but I don’t think he’s some world beater. He’s good - they’re not giving away European titles - but he’s not anything special.

“People will overlook me and get on the hype for Abass but I think it’s a proper, solid 50-50 fight and one that I’m very confident of winning.”

The fact that McGowan is talking so confidently and concentrating on the reasons why he will win rather than the size of the task he faces is a sign of just how much he has grown.

Lots of young fighters turn professional for the right reasons and with realistic expectations but not many manage to avoid the whispering voices and promises of riches and hold on to their beliefs throughout their career. 

McGowan is one of the few. 

It is more than a decade since an 18 year-old McGowan began training at the old Morton Mill in North Manchester.

One early sparring session stands out. McGowan jumped in with big punching established welterweight, Mark Thompson. It wasn’t an easy day’s work and McGowan’s white t-shirt was stained red by the end but there were no complaints. The experience didn’t dishearten him whatsoever and he seemed to relish the fact that he was now amongst professionals and had so much to learn.

A couple of years later, a then 5-0 McGowan couldn’t disguise his happiness and relief at having scored his first professional stoppage victory. The fact that it had come over an admittedly overmatched Hungarian didn’t matter one iota, McGowan joked that he was happy to have “looked dead hard in front of my mates.” 

McGowan hasn’t changed since. Yes, boxing is his job and he does it to support his family but there is still the feeling that he boxes because he enjoys it and because he retains the hope of having that moment of glory.

"I thought I could win a British title. I thought I could have a good career,” he says when remembering his aims when he turned professional. “Being dead honest with you I never thought, ‘I’ll be a world champion.’ It wasn’t even something that entered my head as a kid. I’d see Ricky Hatton filling the Manchester Arena and imagine the occasion and everybody buzzing and Manchester going mad for you. I used to think that would be mint but I never thought about world titles. It was always about the British for me and then the European and world titles sort of come later.

“I’m getting a shot at the European here and it’s kind of making my whole career worthwhile.

“I wanted an honest career. I just wanted to be able to look myself in the mirror when I was done and be able to say, ‘Fair play to you.’ As an amateur I was a bit stand-offish, a bit of a runner and a bit boring really. As a pro I wanted to be respected. I wanted to be known as a warrior.

“Those were my motivations over money. They still are really. I think I’m doing alright.”

That determination is still there but these days desire is just another string to his bow rather than Plan A, B and C.

“Oh, I’ve still got it. I’ve just gotta be a bit cuter with it. I want to win at the end of the day. I know people can say the losses were tough fights but they still hurt. I just handle them okay.”