The trauma of a Caribbean orphanage, the stress of home evictions and the highs of fighting in Madison Square Garden.
Glasgow boxer Jay McFarlane’s life at just 21 years old would comfortably eclipse what most would experience in multiple lifetimes.
On Friday McFarlane will feature in the heavyweight edition of Ultimate Boxxer, a one-night knockout tournament where eight professional fighters face-off in three rounds.
The Scot will be looking to progress on a boxing career that’s had him go from fighting in a Glasgow hotel to a Gennadiy Golovkin undercard in New York in the space of two months.
‘I fought at the Garden but slept on the floor at home’
McFarlane isn’t your typical professional boxer. Not just in the sense that it’s not his only source of income, with him also doubling up as a delivery driver.
His unique sporting life doesn’t stop there. Looking back on the day he signed his pro-contract, the Scot recalls going home to his ‘scatter flat’ – temporary accommodation used for evicted tenants.
“That night I slept on the floor”, says McFarlane. “Even after I had two pro-fights I was still sleeping on the floor.”
“I fought in Madison Square Garden and stayed in a five star hotel, but when I got home I slept on the floor again.”
‘Nobody can hurt me in the ring as much as that did’
Now residing in a house, McFarlane states “he’s living the dream”, but it is over a decade ago since the Scot’s life was turned into a nightmare.
What would seem to be a dream family holiday to the Caribbean in 2008 would result in McFarlane and younger brother Kai spending time in a Caribbean orphanage, before being brought home by their grandparents.
En route home from the Dominican Republic, McFarlane’s mother and then partner were arrested for drug smuggling after officials found cocaine in their luggage.
Just 10-years-old at the time, McFarlane recalls his experience: “My little brother is two years younger and he’s autistic, so throughout the whole time I had to pretend everything was fine for him. I had to mature really early.
“It was horrible at the time. It still hurts, but it’s taught me not to be scared of anything. I don’t think anybody can hurt me in the ring as much as that did.”
After going through such a traumatic experience at a young age, McFarlane does everything to remain in a positive mind-set, with inspiration coming from unlikely sources.
“Don’t laugh, but my favourite saying is from [the film] Kung Fu Panda”, says McFarlane.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery and today is a gift, that’s why they call it present’ – so just forget about what’s happened before and be excited for what’s to come.”
‘I fell in love with boxing’
Describing himself as being part of the last generation to be ‘kicked out the house all day unless dinner was on the table’ – or “six dinners” in McFarlane’s case – the Scot recalls the first time he stepped foot in his local boxing gym.
Looking for a more active lifestyle and something other than football, then eight-year-old McFarlane would have his first boxing memories in the same gym as prominent Scottish boxer Kash Farooq, under the guidance of the late Bobby ‘Sherbo’ McDermott.
“As soon as I laced a pair of gloves I fell in love with boxing”, says McFarlane.
“He [McDermott] thought I was a lot older than I was, so he put me in [the ring] with a 15-year-old. I took an absolute beating. Even at that age, I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
Thirteen years later and 14 bouts on, McFarlane will be looking to upset the odds in Manchester on Friday at Ultimate Boxxer 6.
Even though the Scot admits he’s not taking boxing as seriously as he should, he still believes he is being underestimated.
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“Every person in Ultimate Boxxer has overlooked me from the start”, says McFarlane.
“Every one of them would’ve been happy to draw me, but they can expect the unexpected, I’m coming with fireworks.”
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