By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
KAL YAFAI was jumping around in delight as he watched pal Anthony Joshua stop Wladimir Klitschko at Wembley Stadium two weeks ago.
But he can only dream of one day getting such recognition.
There is no doubting that Yafai is as talented as the WBA, IBO and IBF heavyweight champion, who was once his amateur team-mate at GB Boxing.
But as he prepares to make the first defence of his WBA super-flyweight title tonight against Japan’s Suguru Muranaka in his hometown of Birmingham, Yafai knows that he will have to do much more than be a world champion to get recognition.
The wider public care little for the smaller men in boxing as the big boys get all the attention.
But fighters like Yafai and former amateur team-mate Andrew Selby, who is flying through the flyweight ranks, are often ignored despite their array of skills.
“If I was a middleweight, then I would be massive and everyone would know who I am,” the unbeaten Birmingham fighter told Starsport.
“For your hardcore boxing fans, they really appreciate it. I don’t know why people don’t like watching us smaller guys, I still have the skills, the speed, the power.
“But I have to keep doing what I’m doing, keep performing and then I will become a household name. It’s good being a world champion, the pay days are good but I want to build my name.”
Yafai, who started boxing when he became obsessed with Prince Naseem Hamed, is one of three fighting brothers alongside fellow pro Gamal and GB Boxing star Galal.
They have turned their mum into an avid boxing fan who tunes into all the big fights, while six-year-old brother Mikhail is also destined to follow them to the gym when he is old enough.
Yafai is hopeful that the three boxing now can one day all hold belts at the same time.
But for now he is focused on unifying the division and getting the credit he deserves despite his stature.
The Beijing Olympian is open to facing IBF champion Jerwin Ancajas or WBO title holder Naoya Inoue, but the one he really wants is Nicaragua’s Roman Gonzalez, or ‘Chocolatito’ as he is more widely known.
Gonzalez will have a rematch first against Thailand’s Srisaket Sor Rungvisai, who upset him in a thrilling and controversial March fight to take the WBC title.
Yafai added: “People laugh and say, ‘How can he fight him, he will kill him’. But honestly them people don’t know s**t about boxing as Mr Floyd Mayweather would say.
“That’s why I want to fight people like that. I want to show what I’m about. I want to show how good I really am.”