Peter McGrail has admitted he felt bad for his long-time coach after suffering one of the biggest upsets of 2023.

Southpaw super-bantamweight prospect McGrail was shocked on the Jesse ‘Bam’ Rodriguez-Sunny Edwards undercard by Detroit’s Ja’Rico O’Quinn, losing for the first time and in his ninth professional fight.

The former 2020 Olympian was stopped in the fifth when ahead on points and seemingly on his way to victory, and no one took the defeat harder than his trainer Paul Stevenson.

“He’s brought me up, hasn’t he?” said the 27-year-old McGrail. “I’ve been in the gym since I was 10 [years-old], that’s 17, going on 18 years now. It’s been a long journey and I’m obviously back with Paul, he was in the corner so it was probably hard for him to take as well. I think we’re all professional enough to know that it is boxing, and also in our gym [Everton Red Triangle], we watch so much boxing from back in the day. Paul will have us watch loads and loads of boxing most mornings and, when you look, there’s quite a lot of legends and people who end up smashing up multi-weight world champions [who lost early in their careers].

“There are a lot of people like this [great fighters], who stuff like this actually happened to earlier on in their careers. So it happens, it’s boxing. We’re lucky to be in this position with Matchroom, and obviously my management team, where they could get me the rematch. We knew that it was just time to get back in the gym, back to work, and just work towards the rematch.” 

Originally, the return was set for McGrail’s hometown of Liverpool, but it has been pushed back and onto the Josh Taylor-Jack Catterall rematch bill in Leeds on April 27.

McGrail was riding high until O’Quinn’s right hand sent him down and out in Glendale, California. It was an unexpected bump in the road for McGrail, and one he has had to recover from psychologically as well and physically.

“Yeah it hurts, obviously,” McGrail admitted, having dropped O’Quinn in the second and fourth rounds. “I was saying to my coaches Paul and Anthony [Humphries], they sort of had the final say that we fight [the rematch]. I would’ve always wanted the rematch but if they said, ‘No, we don’t want that, we want someone else’, then that’s probably what would’ve happened. But pretty much straight away I said to my coaches, ‘We want the rematch, don’t we?’ 

“Even [promoters] Eddie Hearn and Frank Smith came into the changing rooms afterwards, and we were saying that we wanted it straight away, so that was sort of decided pretty much straight away because I did feel comfortable in the fight, up until that shot. It’s not like I was getting my head punched in for five rounds and then I got stopped. If anything, I was punching his head in for the five rounds before he stopped me. 

“I think it was a no-brainer to take that rematch, really. It’s given me a chance to right a wrong, so it’s actually given me a good opportunity and another chance to showcase my skills in a good fight.”

Until that night, McGrail had been satisfied with his career progress. He was 8-0, had banked two 10-rounders, made his pro debut in Liverpool and boxed in Dubai and Japan. The sanctioning bodies had started to take note, too.

“I was 8-0, I think I was in the top 10 [in the world],” McGrail explained. “I was No. 10 in the WBA [rankings] at that point. I had boxed all over the world, in my first eight fights Japan, Dubai, obviously most of my fights were in Liverpool, and then this was my ninth fight which was obviously in the US, so that’s four different countries in nine fights. So I’ve had good experience, and even taking that loss there and taking a shot like that, that’s even more experience. I know it’s obviously not the best experience, but it’s still experience, fighting in the US, so I’m happy with the way it’s going. I’m obviously gutted over the loss, but I’m thankful for my team and my coach as well, for getting me the rematch straight away, giving me the chance to avenge the defeat because it would have been on my mind if I didn’t. 

“Obviously, if I went with someone else I would’ve focused on that fight, but I’m just thankful and glad that I’ve got the rematch straight away.” 

McGrail speaks with enthusiasm and excitement about the return.

He said he was not signed to any promotional entity for his first two fights, which came on Matchroom shows, but then he was picked up by the now defunct Probellum, hence his third fight in Dubai. He rejoined Matchroom after Probellum virtually sank without trace, and boxed Nicolas Nahuel Botelli and the Fran Mendoza.

Two 10-rounders, and then into the O’Quinn defeat. 

“I feel like it was a bad loss,” McGrail lamented. “I was going well, but that’s in the past now. 

“That’s why I’m just looking forward.”