The boxer with world title ambitions, Raza Hamza talks training, tragedy and late night Nando’s
Raza Hamza might not be a name you recognise… yet. The young featherweight is set for a hell of a year on the boxing scene – he’s currently negotiating a title fight – and if ambition and dedication count for anything he’s on a path to potential global success. He says: “This will be a big year. Everyone will know who I am.” With five British titles, three English titles and two Asia titles as an amateur, you wouldn’t bet against him.
Against the odds, Raza navigated his way through a childhood in the shadows of Villa Park where he watched his peers one by one creep into criminality. He remembers: “Friends were going down the wrong path selling drugs and thieving. I knew I didn’t want to be that person.” Dad was a mechanic and Raza’s mother was a stay-at-home mum who loved watching boxing.
She could see the benefits of the discipline required to excel at the sport and encouraged Raza to go to the gym. He threw himself into it at the Aston ABC gym leaving little time for anything else which kept him on the straight and narrow. “I came home from school, ate, went to the gym, arrived home at 7pm and went to bed. There was no time to get into trouble.”
Sadly, when Raza was aged 12 and on the morning of his first fight, his mum died without seeing her son compete in the sport she and he loved. Raza won that fight along with the majority of his amateur bouts, always with the memory of his mum spurring him on to do his best. He says: “I don’t idolise other people, but my mum’s my hero. She inspires me to do well.”
Another motivating factor is the memory of his brother who died aged just 21 in a motorbike accident. Raza turned those tragedies into motivation and his philosophy is: “Never give up. Believe. If there are no opportunities, make one.” Mental coaching, yoga and meditation is part of daily life for Raza. At odds with the aggression he shows in the ring, Raza explains: “Fighting is a job. I’m actually the nicest guy in the gym. I go to the mountains in Wales a fair bit. I’ve done yoga temples in Thailand and I meditate every day. It’s just part of my routine.”
When Raza was aged 16, he moved to Manchester to train under Haroon Hedley so he could really focus. Now he’s back in Brum training with Max McCracken and managed by MTK Global who look after big names such as Tyson Fury and Carl Frampton and is getting closer to his world champ ambitions.
A typical day for Raza is very structured with two to three hours with a trainer in the morning as well as a session in the gym – possibly running – followed by sauna and steam room in the afternoon/evening. Food is a regular feature to keep the energy up which as well as the usual training fodder of eggs, pasta, baked potatoes and the like, include a big hit of protein from the odd ‘late night cheeky Nando’s’.
Keen to give back a bit, Raza is evangelical about boxing, giving kids in a similar situation to his a route out of trouble. When a teenager close to where he grew up approached him outside the chip shop in Aston ‘playing the gangster’ with three Nokia phones in his pocket, Raza told him to go the boxing gym. Raza says: “The kid said he couldn’t afford it, so I pay £10 a week for him to train. He now trains every night. He’s staying out of trouble and showing promise.”
Raza feels it’s easier now for kids from his old stomping ground to break the cycle. He explains: “Birmingham is building and getting brighter. When HS2 comes bringing more people there’ll be increased opportunities for sure.”