AM­A­TEURS

Ga­mal Yafai talks to John Den­nen about the un­cer­tain­ties of the fu­ture

Boxing News - - Contents -

Ga­mal Yafai on the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of in­ter­na­tional box­ing

OLYMPIC box­ing is a per­ilous game. As well as the va­garies of the draw in tour­na­ments, of judg­ing some­times, there is ad­di­tional un­cer­tainty at present. AIBA, the world gov­ern­ing body, have in­di­cated they will re­duce the num­ber of men’s weight di­vi­sions for Tokyo 2020 from 10 to eight, while in­creas­ing the num­ber of women’s di­vi­sions from three to five. While cre­at­ing fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties for fe­male box­ers is most wel­come, it’s a dras­tic move to cut two es­tab­lished cat­e­gories, es­pe­cially more than a year af­ter the last Olympics when box­ers have al­ready com­mit­ted them­selves to the next cy­cle. There has been no fur­ther clar­ity on what di­vi­sions might lose their Olympic sta­tus.

Ga­mal Yafai is prob­a­bly one of many un­easy light-fly­weights. “If you look at my weight, 49kgs, nearly ev­ery per­son that went to the Olympics and won a medal is still there now. They don’t re­ally go pro at my weight,” he tells Box­ing News.

“Look at the other weights, a lot of them have gone, Olympic cham­pi­ons have gone pro, or the sil­ver medal­lists have moved on. It’s a bit un­fair if they get rid of my weight now when 49 ki­los are the most loyal to AIBA. They stay, don’t they?

“They could change it to 50 ki­los or 51. I’ve just got to go with what­ever hap­pens,” he spec­u­lated.

The light-fly­weight divi­sion has re­tained the gold, sil­ver and one bronze medal­list from Rio 2016. “It’s just a case of wait­ing and see­ing,” Yafai mused. “It would be a bit un­fair on 49s be­cause they’re the most loyal to AIBA and they’re the ones that stay am­a­teur for long­est.

“We’ll just have to see what hap­pens and I’ll just have to ad­just.”

In in­ter­na­tional am­a­teur box­ing you have to be adapt­able. Yafai per­formed ex­cel­lently in the fi­nal of the Euro­pean cham­pi­onships against Rus­sia’s Vasilii Egorov but did not get the de­ci­sion. “I thought the judg­ing was a bit weird. Three judges had it 29-28 to him and then two judges had it 27-30 to me and 25-30 to me! It was just a bit weird, I don’t get it all. It’s am­a­teur box­ing. I was gut­ted but I thought I won,” Ga­mal said. “I was gut­ted but I could move on from it and try and put it right at the Worlds but when I got to the Worlds I didn’t get seeded. Eight box­ers got seeded and I wasn’t one of them. Which I wasn’t sur­prised by but I knew if I’d be­come Euro­pean cham­pion I would have got a seed. It could have been the dif­fer­ence be­tween getting a medal.”

In his sec­ond con­test at the World cham­pi­onships in Ham­burg Ga­mal was drawn against Colom­bia’s Olympic sil­ver medal­list Yurber­jen Martinez. “The Cuban [ Joah­nys Argi­la­gos] was World cham­pion be­fore and now he’s two time World cham­pion but for me fight­ing the Colom­bian was a lot harder, he was so strong,” Ga­mal said. “There’s a boxer out there who’s stronger than me and I’ve got to use other skills to beat him.

“I can get away with it with kids who are going to try and box me and try and nick it off me. When I come up against some­one who’s stronger than me, it’s like what do I do now? I’ve had 41 fights now, I’ve been to the Olympics, Euro­peans and now the Worlds and I’ve never come up against some­one that’s stronger than me and that is going to push me back. I was like what’s going on here now? I’ve never had that be­fore. Which is kind of a sur­prise that I’ve never had that be­fore,” he said. “But it shows how rel­a­tively in­ex­pe­ri­enced I am be­cause I’ve never come up against some­one like that. It’s all learn­ing from now on.”

‘I’D NEVER COME UP AGAINST SOME­ONE SO STRONG BE­FORE’

Photos: AIBA & AC­TION IMAGES

FLY­ING THE FLAG: Yafai takes pride in box­ing for England at the Worlds

CLOSE CALL: Yafai [left] deals with the Cuban’s style well at the 2016 Olympic Games

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