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New Faces: Galal Yafai – The Ring

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GALAL YAFAI
Age: 31
Hometown: Birmingham, England
Weight class: flyweight
Height/Reach:  5-foot-4″ (175 cm)/ 68′ (173 cm)
Amateur record: 55-14 roughly
Turned pro: 2022
Pro record: 6-0 (4 knockouts)
Trainer: Robert McCracken
Manager: Robert McCracken
Promoter: Matchroom Boxing
Twitter: @galal_yafai

 

Best night of pro career and why: Yafai feels two particular performances stand out in his young career.

“Probably my second fight [against Miguel Cartagena] , it was at Madison Square Garden. I fought on the Katie Taylor-Amanda Serrano undercard, I won by second round stoppage,” Yafai told The Ring. “That was a really good performance by myself.

“My fourth fight, I fought on the Anthony Joshua-Jermaine Franklin card against Moises Calleros (TKO 4). I think that was a good performance from myself. The rest have been OK but I think those two stand out.”

 

Worst night of pro career and why: The 31-year-old is less than impressed by an early outing that was closer than he’d have liked though feels there were mitigating circumstances.

“I had my third fight in Abu Dhabi it was against a Mexican called Gohan Rodriguez, who was very good – tricky,” he explained. “I had a really bad injury in my foot. I had a really big blister, it was something I’ve never had to deal with before. I couldn’t do what I wanted, I couldn’t stand properly, I couldn’t move my feet, so I was hobbling around trying to chase this Mexican who was a tricky boxer. I managed to win a close [split] decision but it didn’t tell the story because of the injury.”

 

What’s Next: Yafai will face once-touted Agustin Gauto on the undercard of Diego Pacheco-Shawn McCalman/ Richardson Hitchins-Gustavo Lemos double-header at the Fontainebleau Las Vegas, Las Vegas, on Saturday, and appears to be taking it in his stride.

“Same as every fight, I just get ready, prepare, train hard with my trainer Rob,” he said. “I take every fight serious. This Argentinean is coming to win. He’s got a good record, he’s 21-1. He’s coming to fight, he’s not coming to lay down. From his record he can punch a bit, so I’ve got be careful. I’ve got to watch what I’m doing, I’ve got to be professional and mainly I’ve got to win.”

Gauto (21-1, 15 KOs) turned professional in his native Argentina in 2017. Many of his fights took place in South America but he also fought in Latin America where he won his first 15 fight and collected several regional sanctioning body titles. He changed teams and moved his operations overseas initially fighting in Germany before surprisingly losing his unbeaten tag to Miel Fajardo (TKO 2). The 26-year-old has since returned to Argentina and won four fights.

This is an intriguing fight, Yafai will be and rightly favored, but now that Gauto has regained his confidence he could present the Brit with some problems. I lean toward Yafai to win a hard fought but 10-round unanimous decision.

Galal Yafai (left) and Miguel Cartagena during their bout at Madison Square Garden. – Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Why he’s a prospect: Yafai did very well internationally in the amateur ranks, collecting several medals. He won silver at the 2017 European Championships, gold at the Commonwealth games in 2018 and bronze at the European Games in 2019.

However, he was unable to win the biggest tournament in British boxing, running into a future world champion who derailed his attempts.

“I fought Sunny Edwards and lost a split decision,” he explained. “It was very early on in my career. I got into Team GB very early. I think I had 15 fights. I fought in the ABAs and was relatively inexperienced.”

Yafai had gone to the 2016 Rio Olympics as a relative novice.

“In the first Olympics, I was working six months before at the Land Rover factory in Solihull, Birmingham,” he said. “I boxed while I worked full-time. I got onto the GB team and was put on the podium. I was winning my fights while I was still working.

“Then I got picked for the qualifier and won the gold at the European qualifier. I quit my job and was off to Rio. I was pretty inexperienced and that’s probably why I didn’t do as well but I fought the reigning world champion, which was the Cuban [Joahnys Argilagos] and he beat me on a 2:1 split, so I put up more of good account of myself, when I was driving forklifts six months before, so not too bad.”

He was better equipped four years later and made a real name for himself.

“The Olympics is crazy, you walk around the village and you have all these athletes from all over the world at the biggest event on earth,” he explained. “I remember walking around and seeing the American basketball team and seeing Kevin Durandt. You’re surrounded by these people, the tennis stars and the runners and it’s overwhelming but to be fair when I’m boxing I’m on my game, I don’t really care who’s around, I couldn’t care less who anyone is. I’m there to win and do my job because it doesn’t really matter who is there. I just thought of the task in hand and winning gold at the Olympic games and that’s what I did.”

During his amateur career be beat the likes of currently flyweight contender Joselito Velazquez, rising strawweight force Alex Winwood and amateur stalwart Yosvany Veitia.

He has sparred with old rival Edwards, former featherweight world title challenger Nick Ball and a host of the Team GB boxers in and around his weight class.

Yafai feels he has a couple of key attributes: “Maybe my engine helps, it’s a big thing for me. I think I’m quite skillful.”

Yafai’s manager/trainer, Robert McCracken, acknowledges his fighter’s amateur pedigree helped him move quickly, and feels he could have similar success in the professional ranks.

“He’s got loads of potential to compete at the top level,” said McCracken. “Obviously, these fights he’s learning a lot, different styles, he’s fought a variety of opponents from across the world but there’s a way to go yet.

“I think his ability to close the gap on angles with fighters, hit them to head and body and land shots that take the energy out of fighters. Taking it one round at a time and breaking the opponent down as smartly as possible.

“He’s been moved into quite a good level pretty quickly as a professional, hopefully he moves forward each time and performs better. This is a big test for him.”

 

Why he’s a suspect: Yafai was something of a late starter and is already 31, relatively old for a flyweight. However, he doesn’t see it that way.

“I’ve got low mileage on my body, well I hope I have,” he said. “I feel like I’m just getting into my prime whereas people at 31 are normally starting to slow down but because I started a bit later that I’ve got more time.

“I’ve had less fights, less wear and tear but I’m sure we’ll see in the next few years whether I do well or not. I’m enjoying it at the minute, I feel fresh, I’m young and I live clean, I eat clean, don’t drink. Hopefully I can go on until my mid 30s at least and I can sail off into the sunset.”

The Brit says he is working hard to notably improve in one area.

“I think definitely my defense, I’m always working on it,” he said. “My trainer is always banging it on my head. It’s something I will brush up on and get better, especially with better opposition and it’s something I have to brush up on if I want to be world champion. That’s the main thing. If I can take my time and be more diligent in my defense, I think I’ll be a world champion – God willing.”

Meanwhile, McCracken, who is famed for his work with Anthony Joshua and Carl Froch, is helping his charge iron out any wrinkles in his game.

“Just learning to make better decisions and be smart in punching range, making decisions first and not waiting on opponents,” said the former middleweight title challenger turned trainer. “Stop them working and keeping them off balance, that’s what he’s working on and that’s what he’s determined to become good at.”

Galal Yafai – Photo by Mark Robinson/ Matchroom Boxing

Storylines: Yafai, who is of Yemeni descent, is one of five children and was born in Birmingham, England.

His oldest brother, Kal, won the WBA junior bantamweight title and recently retired, while his other brother Gamal won the Commonwealth and European junior featherweight title in a productive career. His brothers played a pivotal role in turning his head toward boxing.

“Kal fought in 2008 in Beijing, I remember seeing that as a school kid and thinking, ‘What are those Olympics.’ And over the years London came by and seeing all the boxers, Luke Campbell, Anthony Joshua, Nicola Adams and I was asked to come in and spar with Nicola a few years later and then I ended up going to the Olympics with Nicola in Rio and following in their footsteps and winning gold was a dream come true.”

However, he doesn’t want the same for his younger siblings: “I tell them boxing is too hard, my one brother is a bit older so he wont be boxing, my other brother is 12, 13, he quite likes boxing but I’m trying to push him into football, boxing is too hard, I’d rather see him do something different.”

Yafai didn’t take boxing seriously until his late teens.

“I was 18 when I had my first fight. I boxed since I was young in the house and garden with gloves on,” he explained. “When I had my first fight I was quite experienced compared to the average person having their first fight. When I went to the Olympics I had 25 fights. I was playing catch up but I was already ahead of my time for the amount of fights I had.”

He parlayed that success into being awarded the highly prestigious MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire).

“It’s a big thing because I was just a little scallywag from Birmingham,” he said laughing. “Being honored by the Queen and taking my mom to Windsor Castle and having a day of it, it was really nice to do and something I’ll live with forever.

“It’s something when I get pulled over by the police for speeding, I just pull that one out [laughs]”

His intentions are to complete the rare double of Olympic gold and world title.

“Definitely, I wouldn’t be pro if I didn’t think I could win a world title,” he said. “I’d have no hunger, nothing to aim for. I’ve just got to keep doing what I’m doing and we’ll see where it takes me.”

Although he’s had just six fights, he doesn’t believe he is far from challenging for world honors: “Not far at all and I thought I was far from it I’d probably be pushed into it [laughs] because I don’t think Matchroom want to keep me fighting without jumping into a big fight, which I’ll be ready for. Maybe this year, the start of next year.”

He also harbors a big domestic clash with former IBF titlist Sunny Edwards when the time is right.

“I’ve mentioned plenty of times, it’s inevitable for it to happen, (but) it has to make sense for myself for him as well,” he said “He’s not going to want to fight me for nothing, he’s going to want to fight me for the most money or a title. I think it will come to fruition. I want that fight in the future. I don’t chase anybody. I haven’t got a bad word to say about people, I just want to fight and be world champion and make some good money for me and my family.”

Yafai, is married has a young son and lives a relatively low-key life. He likes to relax with a coffee, play on his PlayStation 5 and travel, particularly visiting America.

“I remember going on the BBC after I won gold and I didn’t mean to do this but they asked me what I’m going to do now after the Olympics. I said, ‘I’m going to go home and eat some food and buy a PlayStation 5.’ because I didn’t have one at the time, I didn’t want to buy one because I didn’t have a lot of money at the time, I haven’t got a lot of money now but I didn’t have anything back then. So, paying six, seven hundred pounds wasn’t on my list to do, so me mentioning on BBC, somebody sent one out for free,” he revealed.

 

Fight-by-Fight Record
2023
Dec. 16 – Rocco Santomauro – UD 10
August 19 – Tommy Frank – TKO 1
April 1 – Moises Calleros – TKO 4
2022
Nov. 5 – Gohan Rodriguez – SD 10
April 30 – Miguel Cartagena – RTD 2
Feb. 27 – Carlos Vado Bautista – TKO 5
 

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