After suffering a disappointing defeat in the biggest fight of his pro boxing career in Los Angeles, Williams Lake’s Stuart McLellan’s spirits were mended upon returning home to a hero’s welcome.
McLellan lost to Janibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan, now 7-0 as a professional, on Saturday night during Top Rank Boxing’s card at the Banc of California Stadium. He was greeted by 30-plus friends, family members and fans at the Williams Lake Airport Sunday night upon his arrival back home in the lakecity.
The fight for the middleweight, 160-pound World Boxing Organization (WBO) Global Title and the World Boxing Council (WBC) Continental Americas Title was an eye-opening experience for McLellan, now 32 years old with a 27-win, four-loss and three-draw record.
“It was an amazing experience all around,” McLellan told the Tribune.
“For someone who comes from a small town like here [to be on that stage] and to see the level of competition, the gyms down there and how hard they train was something else.”
For the fight, McLellan stepped up a weight class and took the bout on short notice with little time to prepare for Alimkhanuly, a former Olympian who is being groomed for a world title run.
“It was a tough fight to take on short notice,” McLellan said. “He’s a world class middleweight, there’s no doubt about it, and was probably around 180 pounds on fight day, but I know what I need to do next time to compete at that world level.”
McLellan was knocked down by the southpaw’s uppercut in the second round, however, bounced back up to recover, before his corner put a stop to the fight after a barrage of hard punches from Alimkhanuly in the fifth round.
“He wasn’t doing conventional left-handed things,” he said. “He would move to the left and fire the uppercut which was ultimately my demise, but he was real sharp and precise. He knew where you were going to be before you were there.”
Despite the setback, McLellan said he accomplished what he set out to do.
“At the end of the day they were happy with my showing,” he said. “I came to put on a show and did just that. I could’ve ran away from him but I tried to fight and get the win. I’d rather get knocked out than run the entire time.”
McLellan thanked his manager Eric de Guzman and brother Arthur McLellan for travelling to L.A. with him for the fight.
“It’s a bit hard to swallow at this point of my career, because in the back of your head you’re thinking you’re going to be a world champion somehow,” he said.
McLellan said during the flight back home to Williams Lake he had some time to reflect on the fight and started to feel down about the loss, but the airport surprise organized by his wife, Audrey McLellan, was a welcome sight.
“When I landed it was just amazing,” he said. “I show up and there’s 30-plus people in the airport there to congratulate me. I’d expect it with a win but not with a loss.”
Prior to the fight, McLellan spent some time training with world-class boxing trainer Raquet Flores at Capetillo Boxing Academy and at the Maywood Boxing Club — all experiences he said continue to grow his knowledge and experience in the sport.
Now with four fights under his belt this year, McLellan said he’s going to take a break, however, more opportunities with Top Rank have already presented themselves.
“Everything they did (Top Rank) was Grade ‘A,'” he said. “We got a phone call immediately after asking if I was interested in fighting in New York in the future. You’re being looked after on a whole different level than what we’re used to there, though. Everyone was really nice and true professionals and I did what I went down there to do. I let everybody know who I was.”