At 20-years-old and having notched up his biggest win to date you could forgive British Super Welterweight prospect Hamzah Sheeraz (10-0, 6 KOs) for being excited and getting carried away.
However, his emotions were in check and his feet cemented to the ground when Boxing Scene spoke to him after he thwarted the challenge of Ryan Kelly in Birmingham last month.
Sheeraz has been touted by his promoter Frank Warren as one for the top and the matchmaking against Kelly, for the vacant WBO European title, looked like a risk but one worth taking in the Londoner’s tenth fight. Back in March Kelly took another UK prospect, welterweight Michael McKinson, the ten round distance and in 2018 he grabbed the Midlands title stopping Kelcie Ball with a stunning first round knockout.
With forty seconds to go in the sixth round of his fight against Kelly, Sheeraz dropped his opponent with a lovely right hand travelling down from his intimidating six foot one frame. Once Kelly had beaten the count he was forced back to the ropes with Sheeraz landing hooks from either side and followed up with a straight left and conclusive body punches which ended Kelly's hopes. It was a competitive fight, Kelly played his part, but Sheeraz impressed and knew he had just passed something of a stern examination of his credentials as he roared in celebration in the immediate aftermath.
“You could say I’ve now announced myself to the boxing world,” Sheeraz said.
“A lot of people were doubting me going into that fight saying his style is all wrong for you, he’s too experienced for you, he’ll stop you but you have to block out that negativity and just get on with it.”
Getting on with it is something Sheeraz does well. He acknowledges the performance, and the finish, but doesn’t want to dwell on it which is an indicator of his maturity in these early stages of his career.
“I don’t let it get to my head. It was a good punch, I set it up and it came but like I say I don’t let it get to my head. I’ll move on to the next one. There’s no point dwelling on it. It is what it is. I got the win, we look at the negatives from that performance and work on that and hopefully the next performance, probably a defence of the belt, will be even better.”
And with that answer 'Scene asked Sheeraz what he thought the negatives were from his own performance.
“Everyone said I could have kept it long,” he answered. “I could have made it a lot easier for myself to be honest, but I think in the fight only myself and my coach knew that he [Kelly] wasn’t expecting me to fight on the inside and for him I had a much higher work rate than he anticipated so that’s how he had to switch it up. I could have made it easier by just boxing but at the same time it would have made it boring. Boxing’s all about entertainment so I’d rather just entertain.”
Wanting to put on a show likely comes with a fan base that has come to life in his time as a professional since September 2017. Sheeraz sells tickets, a valuable asset to any boxing promoter, but he always looks to deliver value for money and did so to the estimated 300-350 supporters who travelled up to Birmingham. Professional boxing is nothing without the paying public and Sheeraz is extremely grateful to those that do come out to follow his career.
“It’s a massive boost knowing I’ve got their support and that I’ve got their backing. They spend their hard earned money to come and watch me. Going back to what I was saying I have to put on a performance for them as well as myself.”
Next year potentially begins with Sheeraz making a first defence of his newly acquired title, which comes wrapped in a WBO top 15 ranking, in the first quarter of 2020. Four fights in 2019, beginning in March, has allowed Sheeraz to be active, productive and begin to build a name for himself which certainly has the potential to go a long way.
“I’m very happy with that, staying active, and also finishing the year on fighting against a good fighter in Ryan Kelly. I never disrespected him. He’s a quality fighter and it was a challenge I was willing to accept because I did say I wasn’t wanting to fight journeymen and get a padded record. I want some security about myself.”
Now it is time to switch off for a young man who is dedicated to his craft and has zero interest in partying or going out drinking like your average 20-year-old does most weekends.
“I think switching off and being away from boxing is a good thing. Not for too long, just a week is a good thing because too much of anything gets too much and you end up falling out of love with it so it’s good to have that little break.”
He may not drink but this festive time of year is one for some indulgence, a time to relax and eat the kind of food that the modern day training teams would be aghast at. A time for Sheeraz to take time off from the physical push he gives himself in the gym, leaving him a little bit queasy.
“We brought on board Mark Finlay, a new conditioning coach of mine, and the training I did with him he pushed me and every session I felt like I wanted to be sick afterwards. At the end of the day it paid off and that was the main thing.
“It was a vacant belt so both me and Kelly were training as challengers. You’re training that much harder, but at the end of the day all I could do was remind myself of the end goal and that if I push myself through all the hard work I put in I’ll reap the rewards at the end.”
Sheeraz thought Ryan Kelly would take him the distance in their fight. Kelly had never been stopped in his 17 fight, four-year career. The hard graft definitely paid off.