The champion light flyweight from Birmingham, Galal Yafai talks surprise Olympic selection, Commonwealth campaign for gold and future plans to turn professional
Galal Yafai is in Australia’s Gold Coast preparing for the Commonwealth Games having flown out at the end of last month with his 11 Team England boxing comrades for an intense 10-day training camp. We caught up with him before his trip and found an ambitious talent, hungry for success following in the footsteps of his older boxing brothers, Khalid and Gamal.
Not always committed to the sport, Galal stopped for a while in his teens to focus on football and only came back to the sport aged 18 after a few years off. Within four years back training at Birmingham City he was placed firmly in the GB squad and earned a surprise place at the Rio Olympics by defeating Samuel Carmona Heredia of Spain in the semi-final of the 2016 European Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament.
Bursting onto the world stage felt pretty special. He says: “It was an amazing feeling really and totally unexpected.” The former Jaguar Land Rover employee was gaining a reputation as the one to watch. Galal is part of the British Lionheart’s crop of talented young boxers, but had tough competition for his place on the team. He held off the unbeaten Harvey Horn to take the light flyweight spot and has been an impressive part of the group ever since.
His World Series Boxing (WSB) debut in London resulted in a win against Mexican Guerreros Joselito Velazquez followed by a spectacular semi-final performance against Astana Arlans Kazakhstan’s Yerzhan Zhomart that cemented his place. The Lionheart’s recently triumphed against Italia Thunder at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, winning all five bouts with Galal beating Frederico Serra emphatically.
With older brothers also involved in the sport, boxing was a natural step. “I knew what to expect as I’d seen them go through it. I had an idea of how hard it was for them, so I had a bit of a head start. Part of me just wanted to be like them.” All three boys train at Birmingham City amateur boxing club. Thankfully the brothers are different weights so have never had to fight one another, other than ‘over a chocolate bar at home’!
MUM’S THE WORD
I feel for Galal’s mother watching all of her boys go through such a punishing sport, but Galal says she’s used to it. “She’s pretty calm. She flies all over the place to watch me fight. With three sons boxing, she’s got used to it.” I asked that most predictable of question that all boxers get asked, what’s it like to be hit? Galal was charming and didn’t make me feel he’d been asked a thousand times. “It does hurt, but after years of sparring you just get used to it. The first time you get hit on the nose mind you it really hurts!”
As part of Team GB training is full-time and from Monday to Friday Galal is with his team-mates in Sheffield. “There are 30 boxers all training together. We all get on pretty well and its good to be part of a team. As a boxer I’m usually fighting for me, so you prepare for that, but it’s good being together.”
Turning professional is on Galal’s radar in the not too distant future. He explains: “Everyone wants to go professional, be on the telly and earn lots of money, but I’d like to go to 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Home Commonwealth Games 2022 would be brilliant, but I’ll probably be professional by then.”
His former employer, Jaguar Land Rover has been incredibly supportive. Galal says: “They’ve really looked after me. They’ve said if the boxing doesn’t work out they’ll have me back.” That’s lovely and all that, but we’re hoping he doesn’t need the bac- up. We’ll be watching the Commonwealth Games with interest and rooting for Galal.