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Talking Boxing

Interviews, opinions, features and news from the greatest sport in the world!

December 10, 2016

Whatever it takes

Kal Yafai

Kal Yafai is ready to go to hell and back to win his first world title.

by Shaun Brown

It feels like it's been a long time coming but Kal Yafai (20-0, 14 KOs) finally gets his chance at world title glory when he fights for the now vacant WBA super flyweight world title in Manchester tonight. Luis Concepcion (35-4, 24 KOs) lost his belt on the scales yesterday at the weigh-in after failing to make the 8st 3lbs limit. Nothing changes for Yafai. The goal remains the same, and the chance to fulfil the potential that has been seen in him from an early age is now just hours away. Talking Boxing caught up with Yafai during the final weeks of his training camp.

TB: It’s your first world title fight but how long have you felt ready for this type of fight?

KY: I’ve been ready for a while. I think it’s just getting the fight and the world title opportunities, and getting the right fight at the right time. I do whatever my team thinks, but we’re all in agreement that this is the right time. I’m fighting a good world champion, I’m not fighting one of these Mickey Mouse guys. I’m fighting a top fighter and it’s something I’m looking forward to, proving how good I really am.

TB: What do you know of Concepcion?

KY: I’m kind of sick at looking at him to be honest. Everyone’s watched him and I’ve been given instructions on what to do and how to go about it, I’ve watched him a lot. I’ve kinda got sick of watching him. Haven’t watched him the last couple of weeks. I’m just concentrating on what I’ve got to do now. With him you know what you’re going to get. He’s going to come at you, be in your face... he ain’t going to try and outbox me because that’s not going to happen. I know he’s going to come at me and try and knock me out.

TB: How are your hands holding up?

KY: Hands have been good. Obviously, I have to keep an eye on them as usual. A lot of icing and a lot of care gets taken into the hands because they are brittle. They’ve been good to me, thank God.

TB: When did the hand problems actually start?

KY: I’ve had problems since I was really young, since I was 15-16. Boxing in international tournaments and things like that. Kept having cortisone injections in them to keep me going. After I boxed in Beijing I finally got the chance to have my operation done. I had the operation in the September 2008 and was out until April 2009. The thing is with the hands, because I’m small and got small hands, they’re not made for punching. They’re not made to punch the hell out of people. A lot of people say I punch hard for my weight and so on. If I do punch hard then it’s not good for my hands. It’s just one of them I have to put up with. Bite down and keep going.

TB: You’ve maybe held back in previous fights, perhaps because of the hands but with this being a world title fight you’ll have to do the opposite.

KY: 100 per cent. Lucky enough I haven’t had any problems with my hands in the last couple of fights. I know they’ve been over pretty early. We’ve adapted and I’ve tried every glove there is. I use the Rival gloves now and they’re pretty padded. Lot of boxers want to wear the smallest gloves possible. Because I can punch a bit at my weight I can get away with it and think about protecting my hands. I’d rather have more protection in my gloves and be able to let them go instead of having minimal protection, and coming back after round one and my hands are knackered. I think now we’ve finally got round that. Hopefully I won’t have any problems in this fight but if I do I’ll just bite down and do what I’ve got to do to win. And that’s what this fight is about, I’ve got to do what I have to do to win.

TB: The super flyweight division has some great fighters. Where do you see yourself in that mix? Do you think you’re the best in the division and will show it on Saturday?

KY: Maybe. If I do a good job on Concepcion, which I think I will do. I’m really confident of that. I don’t think people will expect it. I think a lot of people expect me to win, but the ones that expect me to win think it’s going to be one of those tough 12-round hard fights that I just nick. If I can go out there and do a job on him, and make it pretty simple and easy then obviously, people will take note and think this kid is the real deal. Maybe this is a super flyweight we should be looking at. And I honestly believe that’s what’s going to happen. Like I said I will do anything to win, any way, any method. If I have to go through hell and back for 12 rounds and back I will do.

TB: Who would you say at the moment is number one in the super flyweight division?

KY: I think you’d have to go with [Roman] Gonzalez at the moment. I know that [Naoya] Inoue is a good fighter. It’s one of them, I want to see him fight one of those other top guys and see how he gets on. I think that’ll be interesting. I know I’ve got to beat Concepcion to be taken seriously, to be in that mix. Fighting guys like Concepcion, these are the fights that will bring out the best in me.

TB: You won the British title last October, but haven’t defended it. Have you been able to enjoy being British champion?

KY: Not really. It’s not really come into my head. We knew that once I won it we weren’t going to get to defend it so... a shame really, I would’ve liked to have won that outright. Something I would like to keep. It’s not going to happen now. It’s just one of them. I’m just proud to say I’ve won it. I’ve won that and now I’m moving into the biggest fight of them all, which is more important.