LEE McGREGOR took a massive step towards the world stage as he dethroned Karim Guerfi to become European bantamweight champion.

The Edinburgh boxer only needed one round to add the blue belt to his existing Commonwealth, British and IBF youth straps in just his tenth professional fight.

The 24 year-old looked sharp from the first bell and put the champion down three times in the opening three minutes with a dazzling combination of body and head shots with perfect placement.

The result and the performance could see the undefeated McGregor fighting for a world title within the year, possibly against fellow Brit Paul Butler.

And he savoured another seismic moment in a career that continues to rise and rise.

“I’m not finished yet,” he said. “I’m coming for that world title. I’m not scared to lose. Many people are scared which is why they are not standing here with four belts.

“If you take the risks then you get the rewards. I’ll never shy away from any challenge.

“I’ll always go in there and fight my heart out. I’m so excited to see where I’m going to be with Ben Davison. He’s the best trainer in Britain. I owe so much to that man.

“I’d love to fight in Edinburgh on the undercard of a Josh Taylor event. We’re good friends as well as team-mates and we push each other on in the gym all the time.

“There aren’t that many venues in the city but I’ll fight at Easter Road if that’s what he wants, even though I’m a big Hearts fan! I’ll fight anywhere as long as the people of Edinburgh are behind me.”

And he suggested a rematch with Glasgow’s Kash Farooq could be another option after their barnstorming clash in November 2019 that saw McGregor take Farooq’s British title.

“I’ll leave that to my management team,” added McGregor. “But that first fight was great and people are going to want to see it again.

“But I’ll say, the Lee McGregor that Kash fought that night is long gone. That was his best chance and he still couldn’t beat me.

“A lot of people thought he maybe nicked it. Well, there’s no way in hell that Kash beats me now. No chance.  

“I’m a completely different fighter now, both my physical strength and my mental strength. I’ve improved so much and I’m a proper professional now.

“If we don’t get a world title shot next then let’s see. Eddie Hearn, let’s talk and see if we can get a deal.”

MTK Global promoter Lee Eaton suggested McGregor could fight on the undercard of Taylor’s undisputed world title fight with Jose Ramirez in May.

“That was an unbelievable performance from Lee, frightening,” he said. “He’s a special talent. There are massive fights there for him now.

“We want to keep him active. He’s already no.4 in the IBF world rankings so he’ll be moving up to a mandatory position.

“He’s not ready for [world champion] Naoya Inoue yet but that day is coming. Will he fight Kash again?

“At the moment Kash Farooq needs Lee McGregor. Lee doesn’t need Kash. But it would be a great fight for Scotland.”

McGregor walked to the ring in Bolton with a saltire wrapped around his body to the skirl of pipes.

It was fourth time lucky as a contest after three previous attempts all fell by the wayside due to Covid complications that included McGregor contracting the virus.

But there was no sign of any rustiness from the Scot as he looked to lay down a marker from the first bell.

It was nearly all over within a minute of the first round as a body shot sent Guerfi tumbling to the canvas, the champion getting up just in time to beat the count.

The Frenchman looked to have recovered but McGregor then put him down for a second time with another thud to the torso. Again, the champion got up unsteadily to his feet but the end was nigh.

And with just seconds remaining in the opening round, it was a left hook to the chin that did the damage, the referee waving it off to send the McGregor camp into raptures.