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Hamzah Sheeraz: Is the WBO European super-welterweight champion the next star of British boxing? Rise of Brit Pakistani boxers/fighters

waz

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Hamzah Sheeraz
Undefeated Sheeraz (right) has stopped nine of his 13 opponents since making his debut in 2017
Saturday night could be the breakout fight for a future star of the sport.

When Hamzah Sheeraz stopped Argentine Guido Nicolas Pitto in November 2020, former heavyweight champion David Haye, watching on in admiration, said: "He looks like a bona fide world champion".
Northern Ireland great Carl Frampton, standing alongside Haye as part of the TV broadcast team, nodded enthusiastically, before adding: "If he doesn't win a world title, I'll eat my hat".


In July, 22-year-old Londoner Sheeraz then made it consecutive knockout wins when he beat Spain's Ezequiel Gurria and extended his unbeaten record to 13 straight wins.

But this weekend at the Copper Box Arena in London, the WBO European super-welterweight champion will face, by his own admission, his "toughest test to date" as he defends his belt in an all-British clash against Bradley Skeete.

"In terms of experience, everything is on his side - he's had more knockouts than I've had fights," Sheeraz tells BBC Sport.

"But, without sounding cocky, I can do everything. I can box, I come forward a lot more. Expect an explosive performance because it's my time to shine."

Born in Ilford, made in California
Hamzah Sheeraz and Ryan Kelly
Sheeraz (right) won the WBO European super-welterweight title in his 10th fight with a sixth-round stoppage win over Birmingham's Ryan Kelly

While sensibly not looking past the challenge of 34-year-old former British champion Skeete - whose record reads 29 wins and three defeats - Sheeraz takes a great deal of confidence from the plaudits he has received so far and is confident he will live up to the expectations.

"I was shocked by Haye and Frampton's comments because that performance wasn't even my best, but if former world champions say that then it must mean something," he tells BBC Sport.

Sheeraz hails from a sporting family. His dad, Kamran Sheeraz, was a professional cricketer but it was his uncle, Imran Sheeraz, who inspired him to lace up the gloves.

"My uncle won multiple national titles as an amateur boxer and really got me into it when I was aged eight," he explains.


A decorated amateur career - ideally an Olympic medal - often catapults a young fighter into the professional limelight, but Sheeraz did not achieve those heights and subsequently "had to do it the hard way".

It was a case of learning, and improving, on the job when he turned professional at the age of 18 with Frank Warren's Queensbury Promotions.

Last year Sheeraz linked up with American trainer Ricky Funez and now bases his training camps in California, where he has shared over 80 invaluable rounds sparring with former world-title challenger Jose Benavidez Jr.

"I really held my own. I've always believed in myself but ever since I made the move to the States I don't get nervous any more," he says.

"My first camp was the first time I had ever been to America and I was away from home comforts for 14 weeks. You don't see many 22-year-olds doing that."

'I want to help South Asian boxers'
Sheeraz's dad is of Pakistani heritage and his mum of Indian background. "So you can call me the peacemaker," he jokes.

He is one of many young British South Asian boxers making waves in the sport, with Adam Azim, Aqib Fiaz, and Kash Farooq to name just a few.

Sheeraz credits Amir Khan for paving the way, and hopes to emulate the former world champion by creating his own legacy both in and out of the ring.

"When I turned pro nobody knew who I was until I won my European title. I was thinking to myself what more can I do to get myself out there," he says.

"It's not easy for us South Asians to break through like Amir did and have platforms already there, so a long-term goal of mine is to help the community to get them on bigger platform as soon as they turn pro."

Sheeraz says he feels "blessed to have Asian and Muslim roots" but stresses the importance of challenging any stereotypes.

"I don't think you ever see a South Asian go fishing, which I do," he says before breaking into laughter.

"In all seriousness, when I was 17 I went over to Spain and stayed with British fighters out there. I was with them for a year and it was an opportunity to explain how my religion and culture worked.

"I wanted them to know that what they might think about me, who I am or stuff to do with my religion, might be completely wrong."

Support for Saka and racism 'won't break me'
Hamzah Sheeraz and Bukayo Saka speak on Instagram
After his last bout, Sheeraz posted on Instagram to explain my why he wore an Arsenal with 'Saka' on the back
Sheeraz is already using his platform to influence change outside of boxing. In his last professional fight, he walked to the ring wearing an Arsenal shirt with 'Saka' printed on the back, in support of England's Bukayo Saka.

At the Euros 2021 final in the summer, black footballers Saka, Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford all received racist abuse after they missed in the penalty shootout loss against Italy.

"I just wanted to show Saka that we were all behind him," Sheeraz says. "He then followed me on Instagram and we spoke on there. He thanked me as a fellow sportsman and kept it very respectful."

Sheeraz says he has also recently been targeted by racist abuse. As he left a London gym days before his last fight, he returned to his car to find a hand-written note which read 'don't park here again,' followed by a racial slur targeted towards his Pakistani heritage.

"I was shocked - I thought stuff like that doesn't happen anymore," he says. "I thought in terms of the area and community cohesion everything was alright but obviously it wasn't.

"It wasn't the best thing to come back to, but it takes a lot to break me. I will carry on spreading positivity and love and try to get these bitter people to understand we all bleed red."




He beat Bradley although there was a crazy moment;

 

AZADPAKISTAN2009

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Congrats to Boxer excellent achievement
Boxing/ Wrestling & Tennis is unexplored sports which has tremendous value

You can shine based on individual skills and desire level
 

313ghazi

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MashaAllah, there is a lot of talent in our community and as we see examples of success the path for those following becomes easier. It also helps that our community is wealthier now and families can afford to let their kids follow a dream rather than need them to be working at 16 or 18.
 

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