Galal Yafai has said he is determined to add a world title to his Olympic gold but says he does not feel any extra pressure on his shoulders after he turned professional on Thursday (January 27).
The 29-year-old, from Solihull, has signed a long-term deal with Matchroom and will make his debut in the pro ranks on February 27 on the undercard of Lawrence Okolie’s world cruiserweight bout at the O2 Arena live on DAZN.
Yafai is aware of the expectation given his gold medal exploits in August and also the achievements of his brothers Kal, an ex-world champion, and Gamal, who is a former European belt holder in the super-bantamweight category.
Yet the Birmingham-born fighter not only wants to follow in the footsteps of his siblings but also those of British world champions Anthony Joshua, Lennox Lewis and James DeGale after they all conquered their respective divisions in boxing having left the amateur scene as Olympic champion.
‘I will go in there and smash everyone’
“Hopefully I can, I wouldn’t say surpass Kal but be on his level by being a world champion,” the youngest Yafai told the PA news agency.
“I am not deluded enough to think I will go in there and smash everyone. I have to be smart about it, I have to go about it the right way but hopefully I will be challenging for world titles sooner rather than later.
“There is not many world and Olympic champions around. I don’t know the number of them in Britain. You have AJ, James DeGale, I know there is only a handful.
“If I can add to it then it would be great for my legacy, great for my name and great for when I look back on my boxing life to say I was Olympic and world champion.”
From Land Rover to professional boxing and an MBE
It has been a whirlwind few months for the one-time Land Rover employee, who achieved his dreams at the delayed 2020 Games – and his success in Tokyo also earned him an MBE.
Yafai jokes that his oldest brother, Kal, now has to call him by his title, but admitted: “I still can’t believe I’m an MBE. Do I look like an MBE? I don’t, do I? I look like a hoodlum.”
While the tag may not yet sit comfortably with Matchroom’s newest recruit, he is more at home when in the ring and working hard, which he knows is a must if he is to transition from the amateur game where rounds are shorter and gloves are bigger.
An O2 Arena debut next month will do little to dampen the fanfare but he is ready to handle the step up.
“I can’t just win, I need to look good,” Yafai pointed out.
“This is what I have wanted to do for so long. Yes, I know I am Olympic gold medallist and I have the tag of ‘golden boy’ but I don’t think I am the golden boy.
“I just have the gold medal from the Olympics and I believe there are plenty of other great fighters from GB that are just as good as me or if not better than me so I don’t think I have got any pressure. I am excited and I just want to show everyone how good I am, so hopefully I can.”
After disappointment at the 2016 Rio Games, Yafai’s decision to wait what proved five years – due to the Covid-19 pandemic – to turn professional has paid dividends and now he is positive about what the future holds after joining his brothers as part of the Matchroom and DAZN team.
He added: “This is fun for me, it’s boxing. I love boxing.
“I was boxing for my country in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, travelling all around the world and now I get to box on the biggest stage as a professional and as Olympic champion on a great platform like Matchroom and DAZN, so what is not to love?
“I was thinking I had done the wrong thing at the start of last year and telling myself ‘I made a mistake, I should have gone pro after 2016 and taken a gamble’ but it paid off.
“I put more pressure on myself to deliver at the Olympics. Thankfully I got the gold and now I am in the position I am in now. I’m ready to go.”
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