Monday, March 20, 2023  |



Golden Galal Yafai says he wants to “test himself” ahead of 10-round debut

Team GB Tokyo 2020 Gold Medalist Galal Yafai Press Conference to announce his Promotional Deal with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing and his Professional debut at the O2 Arena, London on February 27, 2022 Picture By Mark Robinson / Matchroom Boxing

Tokyo Olympic gold medallist Galal Yafai makes his debut on Sunday night at the O2 Arena in London and he does so in a 10-rounder against Mexican Carlos Vado Bautista.

Bautista is 10-4-1 and he will be coming to scalp Britain’s golden boy, who is 29-years-old and clearly out to make an impact.

“I’m not used to these fight weeks,” smiled Yafai. “I’m used to being in the middle of Hungary or Bulgaria. [But] I take everything away and it’s just a fight. I’ve been doing it a long time and I’ve fought in high profile fights, Olympic finals, European finals, WSB fights against reigning world champions, Commonwealth finals, so I’m used to this. I know it’s going to be a different fight, 10 rounds but I’ve trained for that. I’ve fought in bigger occasions so I’ll be ready in that respect and I’ve left no stone unturned [in preparation] so I’ll be ready.”

Yafai’s ready for a tough night but he’s been sparring IBF flyweight champion Sunny Edwards in preparation and is keen to progress rapidly, albeit watching how he goes on a fight by fight basis.

“I want to test myself,” the 29-year-old went on. “I think I’m good enough to mix with the top boys, I’ve done a lot of sparring over the last few weeks with Sunny Edwards, who is the IBF champion and it’s given me a chance to gauge where I’m at and I’m in a good place. I can assure people that. I think I’m up there with the world champions. I know it sounds silly now but I think I’m up there. Does that mean I beat them now? Not necessarily. Do I need more fights? Of course. Can I be a world champion? Yeah. Will I be a world champion? We don’t know.”

Yafai is from fighting stock, with brothers Kal and Gamal decorated former amateurs and pros. Kal won the WBA super-fly belt and Gamal won the European super-bantam title, so Galal has already seen the highs and the lows of the sport and he’s learned lessons, too, well ahead of his debut.

“It’s great when you’ve got people close to you who have gone through it, I’ll always be asking them questions and it’s not just my brothers but other people in the pro game that I’m close to,” Yafai continued. “I’ll speak to the [Joshua] Buatsis of this world and people who came before me and get any information that I can get.”

And the decision to start a pro journey against a Mexican in a 10-rounder was Yafais. It’s not so much a statement of intent as much as a display of confidence in himself and his ability.

“It was mainly me,” Yafai said of the call to turn pro at 10-round level. “I spoke to my coach, they know I can do 10 rounds. We spoke about eight… We didn’t want to start at six rounds, we want to push on and we wanted to do something different and [promoter] Eddie [Hearn] was like, ‘Let’s do something different. What do you think about this, 10 rounds on your debut?’ and we said yeah, no worries. We trained for it and that’s it. I’ve got a Mexican fighter who’s going to come to win. I’m the so-called golden boy, not that I see myself as that, but he’ll be coming to knock me off my perch and win, which will make for a good fight.”

Yafai, though, will take it steady. He’s not trying to get ahead of himself, or saying he wants to fight for world titles within five or 10 fights. He knows he’s at the start of a new learning curve and will take things one move at a time.

“I think that’s life in general, not just boxing,” Yafai added. “I can’t just say I want to be a world champion in a year or two. I could box brilliantly on Sunday and box brilliant in my next five fights and be ready for a world title. Or, hopefully not, I could box terribly in my next four fights and never be a world champion. You just don’t know. Do I think I can? Yes, but you never know in boxing.”

One thing Yafai does know is that his 2020 Olympic team was deep and the many GB team members from the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016 have gone on to be successful pros, and he’s confident his team can at least replicate the other teams that have gone before in the recent past.

“If you go through all the weights McGrail, the McCormacks, Frazer Clarke, Ben Whittaker, Chev Clarke [who makes his debut on the same bill], they’re all top fighters and the girls as well, Karriss [Artingstall], Lauren [Price], Caroline [Dubois], everyone on the team… they’re all top fighters,” Yafai concluded. “If anything, we could go one better but you never know in boxing.”