By Mark Staniforth
Birmingham bantamweight Kal
Birmingham bantamweight Kal Yafai has shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on a place at the London Olympics and turned himself into one of the hottest domestic prospects in the business.
The 23-year-old has made a lightning start in the professional ranks, winning five of his first six contests by stoppage, including taking just 52 seconds to dispatch Pio Antonio Nettuno in Nottingham in November. has shrugged off the disappointment of missing out on a place at the London Olympics and turned himself into one of the hottest domestic prospects in the business.
The 23-year-old has made a lightning start in the professional ranks, winning five of his first six contests by stoppage, including taking just 52 seconds to dispatch Pio Antonio Nettuno in Nottingham in November.
And as far as Yafai is concerned, while he is still very much on a learning curve, there will be no slowing down in 2013 as he targets a title fight sooner rather than later - and a platform to challenge the really big guns.
Yafai said: "I have surprised myself a little bit because I thought it would be a lot tougher to adapt to the professional ranks, but I have taken to it really well and I think enjoying it has been key to my success.
"I'll fight anybody. I would fight the British or European champion now. I don't want to mess around. I know I have the power to hurt any bantamweight. The better my opponent, the more people will see of me."
Yafai admitted he took some time shrugging off his Olympic disappointment. Long regarded as one of Great Britain's best hopes for a boxing medal, he missed out in a controversial box-off with Welsh rival Andrew Selby.
Yafai was beaten in the first bout of a scheduled best of three with Selby, before being pulled out of the second with weight-making issues, thus sacrificing his last hope of making it all the way to London.
Yafai admitted: "It took me some time to get over the Olympics and it was tough to watch. But I had time to pick myself up and get started in the pros. Now I've built such a momentum and I want to sustain it into 2013."
Yafai made a sensational debut in Sheffield in July, stopping durable veteran Delroy Spencer in the second of their scheduled four-round contest, then needed just over a minute to dispatch Richard Voros in his second bout.
Victor Koh stretched Yafai to a six-round points decision in his next bout just two weeks later, before successive knockdowns over Scott Gladwin, Nettuno and Jorge Perez wrapped an excellent year up in fine style for Yafai.
Yafai added: "I'm still at the stage where I just want to get rounds under my belt. I don't go out there looking for a knockout, but if it comes it comes. I don't intend to hang around. That's why I've got my sights on big things for the year ahead."
Mark Staniforth covers boxing PA Sport