ON THE RISE: KAL YAFAI

ON THE RISE: KAL YAFAI

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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ON THE RISE: ANTHONY JOSHUA

ON THE RISE: ANTHONY JOSHUA

Welcome to my second post in the weekly segment ‘On The Rise’ where I profile up and coming young British boxers. In today’s post, I look at heavyweight Anthony Joshua who, as we all know, is fighting for the IBF world heavyweight title this Saturday.

Now I know just yesterday I wrote a post previewing the title fight this weekend but how could i not include AJ in this segment? Better to get it done early just incase he happens to lose the fight this weekend, which would really put a halt on the young man’s rise up the heavyweight division. Not to put a dampener on things.

As with last week, im going to start from the beginning of AJ’s boxing story. In 2009 at the young age of 19 Joshua began his boxing journey, most notably facing off against current domestic rival Dillian Whyte. As we all heard in the build up to AJ’s and Whyte’s recent fight, Whyte won via UD over 3 rounds at super heavyweight. Following this early amateur career defeat, Joshua really pushed on winning the 2010 ABA National Championship’s at super heavyweight. The man from Watford nicknamed ‘AJ’ was now starting to gather some attention as he retained his ABA title the following year in 2011. Also in 2011, Joshua had just turned 21 as he began his fight to reach professional boxing. At the World Amateur Boxing Championships he really marked his arrival into the boxing world as he beat Italian reigning world and Olympic champion Roberto Cammarelle on points 15-13. On his way through the 2011 WABC tournament, he secured his place in the GB team for the 2012 Olympics, fighting at 91+ kg.

So now in 2012, Anthony Joshua began his journey through the Olympics which would give him the platform he needed to become a professional boxer, alongside showcasing his talent and winning gold for team GB. AJ was given a tough draw in the last 16, coming up against Cuban Erislandy Savon, then ranked #4 in the world by the AIBA. Joshua went on to win the bout 17:16 with many people believing this was a controversial decision and maybe the result should have been the other way round. Despite this, Joshua pushed on through the tournament reaching the final against an old foe in Roberto Cammarelle. Joshua won the fight via count-back and was crowned the new Olympic champion as well as winning gold for team GB. He was later appointed MBE in the 2013 new year honours for services to boxing.

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When July 11th 2013 came around, it was announced Joshua had turned professional under Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport. AJ made his professional debut on October 5th 2013 at his current home the O2 Arena on Scott Quigg’s title defence undercard, beating Italian Emanuelue Leo via TKO in the first round. Joshua continued to knockout whoever was put in front of him, despite it being people he would be expected to beat, he certainly showcased his explosive talent as he began to gather fans quickly. AJ really gathered massive public attention when he knocked out Matt Legg on the undercard of Froch v Groves 2 at Wembley Stadium in front of a record boxing crowd. He dispatched Legg quickly inside the 1st, leaving him to recover from his injuries for the following 3 months. Matt Legg recently spoke to Sky Sports about Anthony Joshua’s knock out power.

“I got a broken eye socket, when I tried to get up I couldn’t even see. I had three months of nerve damage in the side of my face. For two months I had no feeling, it was numb.”

“He hits you through your gloves, even when you’ve got your hands up protecting your head, the power of his punches goes through your gloves, there’s nowhere to hide.” – Matt Legg

As Joshua began to make the O2 Arena his boxing home, he continued to knockout whoever he was up against and sold out tickets despite not yet fighting for any prestigious boxing title. In his 9th professional fight, AJ stepped into the ring against Denis Bakhtov on October 11th 2014 for the WBC International heavyweight title, with the Brit winning via TKO in the second round. On May 30th 2015 Joshua fought American Kevin Johnson in what was supposed to be his toughest test to date, against a man who had never been stopped and had gone the distance with the likes of Tyson Fury and Vitali Klitschko. AJ inflicted the first stoppage defeat of Johnson’s career after the referee stopped the fight early in the second.

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Throughout Joshua’s rise through heavyweight boxing, old rival Dillian Whyte who beat him all those year’s ago constantly accused AJ of being a fraud, calling him out on many different occasions. A fight was finally made between the two big heavyweights in December 2015 in what was Joshua’s toughest fight to date. AJ went in all gun’s blazing expecting to win early on, business as usual, however Whyte had a different idea catching AJ on several occasions and taking the fight to the 7th round before the Watford born man won via TKO. Many believed had Whyte not sustained a shoulder injury that he would have defeated Joshua, but despite this Eddie Hearn managed to get AJ his big opportunity. With just 15 fights under his belt and at the tender age of 26 Anthony Joshua will fight for the IBF world heavyweight title this Saturday against undefeated American Charles Martin.

Joshua’s rise has been phenomenal, quickly becoming a favourite amongst Britain’s boxing fans and even from people across the world. Where he goes after this fight is a mystery, but an exciting mystery as long as he can win. A unification bout against bitter rival Tyson Fury has been talked about recently due to their Twitter ‘beef’ with promoter Eddie Hearn suggesting the fight could take place at Wembley later this year if all goes well.

Whatever happens this weekend and in the future, AJ will continue to be a fan favourite and sell out arena’s due to his light-hearted friendly personality and his ability to unleash devastating knockout punches.

I hope you have enjoyed this week’s ‘On The Rise’, leave a comment and let me know who I should profile next week! I will leave you with a video of his career highlights and knockouts so far.

 

ON THE RISE: CALLUM SMITH

ON THE RISE: CALLUM SMITH

Welcome to a new weekly segment called ‘On The Rise’ where I profile up and coming British talents including things such as interviews, videos, quotes, future opponents and much more.

Today we start with a young Liverpudlian super middleweight called Callum Smith. The 25 year old is the youngest of 4 brothers, Paul, Stephen and Liam who are all also professional boxers. Callum boasts a record of 18-0-0 winning 13 by knockout, but Im going to start from the beginning at the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Smith boxed in the welterweight division and won a silver medal after a defeat to Patrick Gallagher in the final, but he used this small triumph, despite defeat, to motivate himself and to challenge himself further in the boxing world.

Smith had to overcome another cruel disappointment 2 years after the commonwealth games in an attempt to qualify for the 2012 olympic games at light-heavyweight. At the final qualifying tournament, Smith lost 16:14 to Vatan Huseynli where a win would have sealed his place in the GB team for the 2012 olympics. Despite this, Smith still had a chance to qualify for one of the 3 places as the semi-finalist who lost to the eventual winner would qualify, but Huseynli lost to Bahram Muzaffer meaning Smith couldn’t qualify for a place. Controversially, the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) decided they could include an invitational place at the tournament, Smith was shortlisted but the place was given too someone Smith had beaten previously in a very convincing fashion, Bosko Draskovic.

The young now super-middleweight didn’t let this disappointment deter him from going into professional boxing training under the same man as his siblings, Joe Gallagher, who also trains former world champion Scott Quigg.

Smith made his professional debut in late 2012 on the undercard of Carl Froch v Yusaf Mack, winning the bout on points after 4 rounds. ‘Mundo’ continued to beat whoever was in his way, often fighting on undercards of other top British fighters such as world champion Carl Frampton, former world champion Carl Froch and current super-middleweight contender George Groves. Callum Smith has openly said he would love to fight against the likes of Froch and Groves after seeing them sell out Wembley Stadium in what was their second world title fight.

Callum faced his most difficult test to date in late 2015 against rival super-middleweight Rocky Fielding. Many predicted this would be a close fight, which was for the British title and would spark a rivalry for many years to come but ‘Mundo’ won via TKO in the first round, cementing his place as the top British super-middleweight on the rise.

Now in 2016, Smith is ranked No.1 with the WBC and faces Hadillah Mohoumadi in an eliminator for Badou Jack’s WBC world title. The fight which takes place this Saturday in Liverpool will hopefully see the young man show his qualities and beat Mohoumadi, a man who has previously lost to James DeGale, another British world champion. Should Callum win, it will hopefully set up a bout with the Swede Jack who in his last fight beat Smith’s domestic rival George Groves via split decision at the MGM Grand.

Should Smith win the WBC world super-middleweight title later this year or in early 2017, it would set up the potential for huge domestic clashes against the likes of IBF champion James DeGale or previous WBC contender Groves.

Callum spoke to The Guardian in 2014 about the possibility of future fights with domestic rivals.

“I’d like to win a British title this year and once I’ve done that then I’ll move past domestic level and move towards the likes of Froch, Groves and [James] DeGale.

“This time next year Froch will probably be retired but Groves and DeGale are only young and will still be at world level by the time I get there. At the stage I’m at in my career I’m doing exactly the same as what they did, if not better.” – Callum Smith, 2014

Despite the fact Froch has retired, Groves and DeGale are at world level even if one can never seem to get over the final hurdle. The future is bright for young Callum Smith and he has plenty of opportunities providing he boxes smart and takes his chance when he gets his title fight.

I’ll leave you with a video of Smith’s first round knockout of Patrick Mendy (definitely not because i can’t find a video of him knocking out Rocky Fielding) in what was his 8th professional fight, which really showcases the power this young British super-middleweight has, even if it was 3 years ago in 2013.