Kal Yafai Views First Title as Start of Something Big
Birmingham super-flyweight Kal Yafai has vowed that the Commonwealth title will be the first many.
The 23-year-old takes on Yaqub Kareem for the vacant Commonwealth strap in Leeds on Wednesday night, live on Sky Sports, in what will be only his 10th fight in the paid ranks.
He raced to 8-0 after turning pro in July 2012 but with the boxing world at his feet, he was forced to endure seven months on the sidelines with a bicep tear. The Birmingham talent returned to action last October and then moved to 10-0 in December with a seventh win inside the distance.
However, he does admit that such a long injury was tough to deal with.
"You are on the tip of everyone's tongue ... everyone is buzzing about you and saying you are one of the world's best prospects. Then all of a sudden you are taking a backseat and watching everyone else," said Yafai.
"It's been very frustrating but you have to be mentally tough as well and luckily I am. I know what I am capable of and I knew that I would be back and back strong and I'll show that.
"I've had enough of those fights where I am expected to win against journeymen - I had had enough of them after three pro fights to be honest. You have to go through it, I can't pick the opponents. I just get in and do the business and fight who I am told.
"The first three weeks with the bicep tear I couldn't do anything. I was stuck in my flat with my arm in my cast, couldn't drive, couldn't even get changed - and in the middle of summer too.
"My missus had to dress me, wash me sometimes, it was horrible. I got out of the cast in time to go on holiday and I was able to enjoy that, but when I got back it was straight into the rehab.
"I was a bit worried at the beginning because you're out for so long and you have no use of your left arm then all of a sudden you are using it again but you have to build up slowly, build the strength back.
"To build back muscle strength is hard to do, but luckily enough it was fine and I was back in business. It felt odd being back in the ring again but I got into the groove again in December and I am flying now.
"I had a couple of eight-rounders, the first was when I got injured and boxed him with one arm so I couldn't get him out of there.
"I know I am ready. I've had 10 fights - there's an argument that I have been out for a long time but people don't see what I have been doing in the gym behind closed doors, I have had plenty of sparring, plenty of rounds and I am ready for those championship fights.
"I'm very excited about tomorrow's fight. I've been training hard, I'm in great shape and I just want to get in there now and get the job done and grab hold of my first title belt."
Yafai's clash with Kareem is part of a great night of action in Leeds as local star Josh Warrington defends his Commonwealth featherweight title against Martin Lindsay, with the British strap also on the line.
Liverpool's Stephen Smith takes on former world title challenger Mauricio Javier Munoz for the WBC Silver super-featherweight title and crunch eliminator clash.
Kal's younger brother, Gamal, makes his professional debut at super-bantamweight and Gavin McDonnell defends his British super-bantamweight title against Josh Wale in a Yorkshire derby.
Hull's lightweight star Tommy Coyle, newly-crowned English light-welterweight champion Tyrone Nurse, Brentwood's super-featherweight Martin J. Ward and Middlesbrough cruiserweight Simon Vallily are all in action.
** Tickets are on sale priced at £30, £40 and £60 available from the First Direct Arena on 0844 248 1585 and at www.firstdirectarena.com. VIP tickets priced at £120 are available exclusively from Matchroom Boxing on 01277 359900 and at www.matchroomboxing.com.