I caught up with 25 yr old Super Flyweight contender Kal Yafai today. I was impressed by the maturity when he spoke and the sheer depth of his boxing knowledge.
2015 is a big year for Kal – boxing returning to Birmingham after 22 year absence by Matchroom as he “cuts the ring off” on his world title shot.
Kal – firstly thanks for your time. I want to get your thoughts on boxing returning to Birmingham and how you feel about it?
It’s massive. We’ve been waiting for a long time to come back home. I’ve boxed all over the country – I made my debut in Sheffield, boxed in Dublin and London. The closest I’ve got to home was headlining in Wolverhampton on Prizefighter – which was good, but it’s not home. My family and everyone I know is buzzing about. The demand I’ve had for tickets is huge – they are flying out the door!
Birmingham is a real hot-bed of talent now with yourself, brother Gamal, Frankie Gavin and young Sam Eggington coming through. It will be great to see boxing rebuilt there again in large venues. The gold at the end of the rainbow would be for you to box at St Andrews (Birmingham City’s ground) one day.
Definitely. That would be a dream one day to box there.
In reflection of 2014 – with regards to your progression & how active you have been – are you satisfied?
To start the year I wasn’t active and I didn’t fight until the May. But the quality of the fights after made up for it. I won the Commonwealth and IBF Inter-Continental.
But I’ve needed the rounds and experience – which I got in November against Everth Briceno (Kal went 12 rounds for the first time in his career). He was a tough Nicaraguan and it was a great experience for me.
I coped with the distance well and answered any questions people had over whether I can last 12 rounds.
Briceno lost to Leo Santa Cruz in the 11th to a soft decision I thought – so that gives you an indication of the level I’m mixing at.
What are your goals and aspirations for 2015?
Today or tomorrow I’m sitting down with my trainer and Eddie Hearn to discuss our options – we have loads of routes we can go. There are opportunities in WBC and WBA, we could look at Flyweight too.
I’m confident that I will be world champion this time next year. (Kal is currently ranked #12 in the IBF.)
I’m boxing on the Kell Brook undercard on 28th March and obviously in Birmingham on 9th May.
I’m one of the hardest worker’s there are, you ask anyone who knows or has trained with me. You get out what you put in and I’m willing to put some serious work in – to get to where I want to be.
I’d love to box in America at some point; I think they would love my style. The jab is “God In Boxing”, once that jab connects and through the middle it’s a sickening punch, as they have to reset themselves. It’s very hard to counter. It’s something I’ve worked on.
I love America and I was travelling all over there and Mexico before Christmas, I can’t wait to fight there one day.
What would you say has been your best performance to date and why?
I’d have to say the Briceno one as it was a good performance, I could have upped the performance and gone through the gears. I dropped him 3 times and he survived. I learnt a lot by going 12 rounds. My hands were absolutely killing me in that fight and you have to go through the pain to succeed.
I do lots of hand strengthening to conserve them and I spend half hour to do that when training.
Who was your favourite fighter as a boy?
Sugar Ray Robinson was a fighter I loved watching. Sugar Ray Robinson was for me the greatest of all time.
Naseem Hamed was a hero growing when up to me and my family as he was Yemeni like us. Pernell Whitaker was a defensive master and Wilfred Benitez were two others I have huge respect for.
This might be a weird one I’d say Larry Holmes was a great too and the speed of his jab was unreal. I think I’ve modelled my jab on him in some way.
What is THE song or album currently on in your training camp?
Music at the moment – my missus downloads any album I want as she’s good at that!
Big Sean and Kid Ink are my two current favourite albums.
Finally Kal, you have some serious boxing talent in the Yafai family – with yourself and brother Gamal and Galal. You could be the Smith brothers of Birmingham.
It must be tough for your mum to see three of her sons fight?
My youngest brother Galal is a Light Fly, he’s a strong guy. Stylistically very different to me and Gamal – he’s an allusive Southpaw and very tricky.
I think he’s training for ABA’s currently and he has all the ability in the world and is a natural boxer.
My mum gets to as many fights as she can but she does have her hands full (the Yafai family consists of 5 boys and 2 girls!)
It’s funny as mum feels bad for the guys we fight – but I explain to her that they are trying to rip our heads off and they certainly won’t feel any remorse towards us!
Kal – been a pleasure talking to you today. I’m hoping to be at Hull in a few weeks and no doubt you will be there supporting Gamal – so look forward to catching up then.
Nice one Paul – see you then!