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Kal Yafai: ‘It is time for me to deliver’

Photo courtesy of Sky Sports
07
Dec

Sometimes you get the feeling that a fighter is trying to convince himself that he can win.

Confidence is a trait that is harder for a fighter to maintain in this millennium because the world is such a small place. On Twitter, any boxing fan can gleefully inform Fighter A that Fighter B is going to kick his ass on whatever date. Will Fighter A capitulate under such ridicule? No, but he is constantly being reminded that defeat is a possibility.

Kal Yafai, who is rated No. 7 by THE RING at junior bantamweight, is confident by nature. The 27-year-old boxer-puncher was confident when I interviewed him for a “New Faces” feature three years ago. He was confident just minutes before that chat when he easily outscored one Santiago Bustos. Now, at 20-0 (14 knockouts), Yafai, from Birmingham, England, remains just as confident ahead of the biggest fight of his life, which takes place this Saturday in Manchester.

And Yafai’s confidence is for real.

WBA junior bantamweight titleholder Luis Concepcion, who is rated No. 5 by THE RING, is the target. It will be Yafai’s first world title bout and, without question, his toughest test. Despite being a former British and Commonwealth champion, Yafai has not mixed at top level, whereas Concepcion, who hails from the boxing rich country of Panama, has been there and done it.

“(Concepcion) is very aggressive, very strong and very powerful,” Yafai told RingTV.com. “He’s got a good right hand; he looks for the right uppercut and he’s just a very good fighter. He’s the champion, at the end of the day, but this is all about me doing what I have to do to get the win.

“A lot of people haven’t seen the things I can do. I can box the hell out of someone all night long if I want to. If I need to do that on Saturday night, then I’ll do it but if I need to come forward and put the pressure on, then I can do that too. I might use a bit of everything in this fight. I just think Concepcion will struggle with my flair, my speed and my all-round technical ability.”

According to British oddsmakers, Yafai is the slight favorite to relieve Concepcion of the belt he won by outpointing Kohei Kono on Japanese soil in August. That is largely due to Yafai being younger, unbeaten and the more well-known quantity on U.K. shores but the defending titleholder is on a great run of form.

Last December, Concepcion (35-4, 24 KOs) scored a 12-round shutout victory over Hernan Marquez, the former WBA flyweight titleholder, who had stopped him in two previous fights.

“You need to look at the quality of the Marquez he beat,” countered Yafai, who has studied Concepcion diligently. “I’ve watched all three of those fights and Marquez was shot to pieces (in the third fight). It’s impressive that (Concepcion) outpointed a guy who had stopped him twice but the geezer was shot. (Marquez) had been knocked out by McJoe Arroyo and one or two other guys before that (Brian Viloria and Giovani Segura).

“I did enjoy Concepcion’s fight with Kono. That was a brilliant fight. The only thing is that Kono did nothing for the first half and was on his bike. I can look at it and be impressed by Concepcion winning that decision but if Kono had boxed like that against me, I would have destroyed him.

Yafai continued, “Kono doesn’t have the ability that I have or the power I’ve got. He’s got no jab, whereas I have a good jab. He’s not a powerful fighter; he’s not strong and there were times when he hurt Concepcion, particularly in the last six rounds. Concepcion didn’t like some of the body shots he was getting hit with and he was being nailed by right hands too.”

It’s clear that Yafai feels the skids are greased for him to kick open the door to the junior bantamweight big time. He gets his opportunity on a huge U.K. pay-per-view show headlined by IBF heavyweight titleholder Anthony Joshua, who squares off against unheralded American Eric Molina. Many feel that Concepcion-Yafai is the fight of the night and rightly so.

“I’ve waited 18 years for this,” said the perpetually confident challenger. “I’ve given everything that I could possibly give. I’ve worked so damn hard and it is time for me to deliver.

“I think (Concepcion) will come on strong early but, as he’s getting outboxed, he’ll grow more and more frustrated. Later on in the fight, he’ll walk on to something big and it’ll be all over. It’s intriguing because we know what Concepcion is all about and I’m the one stepping up. The question is, am I good enough to fight at this level? People will find out on Saturday night.”

Is Yafai’s confidence misplaced or will this be the coronation of a dynamic new force at junior bantamweight?

 

 

Limited tickets remain for Joshua vs. Molina at the Manchester Arena Tel: 0844 847 8000. VIP tickets are £800 and available exclusively from Matchroom Boxing. Face value tickets for December 10 are also be available from StubHub. StubHub is the official ticket partner and marketplace of Matchroom Boxing and Anthony Joshua.

 

 

Tom Gray is a U.K. Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter @Tom_Gray_Boxing

 

 

 

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