Welcome back to the weekly segment (which is now not so weekly, apologies) ‘On The Rise’ where I profile up and coming British boxers. Today I look at Khalid ‘Kal’ Yafai who’s looking to become a Super-Flyweight world champion this year.
The 26-year-old, who was born in Birmingham, competed in the European Cadet Championships in Hungary at the age of 15 back in 2005, winning a silver medal after losing in the final to Farid Aleshkin. This was a big early milestone in Kal’s amateur boxing career and set a good foundation for himself to carry on performing well during his time as an amateur. Also in that year, he became England’s first U17 World Boxing Champion after winning both the World Cadet Title and Junior Flyweight Title beating Luis Yanez. He was named BBC Midlands 2005 “Junior Sportsman of the Year” receiving plaudits from many boxing professionals who saw the quality he possessed from an early age.
Yafai continued to impress at a very early age and became one of the youngest British champions at the age of 17, winning the World Junior Championship in Morocco. The following year, he was Britain’s youngest team member at the Seniors World Championship, earning the chance to qualify for the 2008 summer Olympics which he did so at the first stage. He beat his Welsh team-mate Mo Nasir and 2004 Olympian Igor Samolencko to qualify, which was a huge achievement and really emphasised the potential he had at just 18 years of age. After he qualified for the 2008 Olympics, he competed in the 2008 European Union Championships where he finished second, winning a silver medal after a controversial decision defeat to home favourite Rafal Kaczor.
Kai turned pro in 2012 and exploded onto the scene, winning his first bout inside 2 rounds as his opponent retired. He fought 6 times in his first year as a professional, winning all but 1 inside in the distance on his was to a perfect record. This was a sign of things to come for the young Brit as the following year he showed no signs of slowing down winning all 4 fights, 2 inside the distance, meaning he had won all 10 of his professional fights in just 2 years as a pro boxer. He had won 7 of his fights up to this point inside the distance which really showcases the power he has, especially at one of the lighter weight classes making him a dangerous opponent for anyone who wanted to take on the man from Birmingham.
After a long injury layoff at the beginning of 2014, he was raring to get back into the ring and took no time at all to brush off any cobwebs he might have had, winning his first title in British boxing (Commonwealth Super-Flyweight Title) against Yaqub Kareem in Leeds. In his penultimate fight of 2014, he won the IBF Inter-Continental Title at Wembley Arena against Herald Molina, knocking his man out in just the second round. 2015 was again a very successful year for Yafai as he won all 4 of his fights against some dangerous opponents with the stand out fight being against fellow Brit Jason Cunningham for the British Super-Flyweight Title. The fight, which took place in Yafai’s home city Birmingham, went all 12 rounds as Kal Yafai won by unanimous decision to claim the British title and really cement his place as a force in the Super-Flyweight division.
That brings us to the current year 2016 and Yafai is looking to become a world champion. He won his only fight so far this year in March for the WBA Inter-Continental Title against Dixon Flores to take his record to 18-0. Kal beat Flores in just the first round in this world title eliminator, attacking his opponent from the second the bell rang and it didn’t take him long at all to find his range. Yafai looked sharp and used his powerful jab to good effect as he put Flores down before staying composed and finishing his opponent off after he managed to beat the count.
The fight has now put him in line for a shot at Kohei Kono’s WBA Super-Flyweight world title and he is more than deserving of winning the belt. He is confident he can win the fight and is ready to do so, he spoke to Sky Sports after the fight against Flores saying:
“No British super-flyweight will fight me so it’s world title next. Get Kono over here. All respect to Flores for coming here but when I land clean, I put them away. I dedicate it to my Mum as an early Mother’s Day present.” – Kal Yafai
Kal Yafai certainly has the skill set to win a world title and I think he will win the WBA belt when he gets his chance against Kono. He has the power to knock out a lot of boxers in the division and a many of Super-Flyweight’s will try to avoid the Brit, with British fighters seemingly already doing so. It’s a shame he is fighting in a division that doesn’t get a massive amount of coverage in the UK as he would be a much bigger name, having a likeable personality and knock out power certainly helps though. I hope we will see him headline a box-office show in the future, potentially after he has a world title or two and becomes one of British boxing’s best fighters. Now he has shown everyone what he has the potential to do, he has to now go and put that all on the line in a world title fight and hopefully add to the growing list of British world champions.