Meet Hamzah Sheeraz, the 6ft 3inch unbeaten British star who reminds me of Tommy Hearns and is destined for world title06/02/2022
HAMZAH SHEERAZ, who received his Best Young Boxer of the Year award last week historically has every chance of going on to become middleweight champion of the world.
Unbeaten Sheeraz who has KO'd 11 of his 15 opponents is the 69th fledgling fighter to pick up the Boxing Writers' Club's much-sought-after trophy.
My Club colleagues deserve a pat on the back for their ability to recognise the potential in young talent over seven decades.
Since 1951, 28 of the shy youngsters who were voted Best Young Boxer fulfilled their early promise and justified the faith in their ability by winning world titles.
Among them are many of Britain's all time greats including Randy Turpin – who was the first – Ken Buchanan, John Conteh, Joe Calzaghe, Barry McGuigan, Nigel Benn, Naseem Hamed and Amir Khan.
It's worth pointing out that 32 of those who didn't manage to reach the ultimate were still good enough to be British and European champions.
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Sheeraz, 22 nine days ago – who is mature beyond his years – knows he's got much to live up to and has mapped out and invested in his future with military precision.
He has his first starring role when he makes his debut top-of-the-bill appearance defending his WBC silver belt against experienced Argentine Francisco Torres, at the Copper Box, Stratford, on July 16.
Physically Sheeraz reminds of Tommy Hearns – at 6ft 3in he's built like a hairpin but just like the "Hit Man" he carries considerable power in his lean frame which will get more lethal when he reaches his full adult strength.
Carl Frampton, Belfast's two-time world champion is one of his most enthusiastic admirers and after seeing him in action a couple of years ago said "If he doesn't win a world title I'll eat my hat."
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Hamzah who started boxing when he was eight years old explaining why he turned pro at at just 18 said: "I never set sights on being an Olympian or going to world amateur championships. I just didn't have much interest in it. Winning pro titles is just so much more appealing to me."
For more than 100 years the sons of immigrants have always been the backbone of boxing in this country – Ted 'Kid' Lewis, Lloyd Honeyghan, Maurice Hope, Conteh, Hamed, Calzaghe and Khan are classic examples.
Sheeraz looks likely to keep up that proud tradition and he certainly has an interesting Heritage – his father's family hail from Pakistan and his mother is Indian – Hamzah laughingly says "I'm there to keep the peace."
Hamzah one of Khan's distant cousins is trained by American Ricky Funez , in Los Angeles and he spends three months there before every fight which costs him £50,000. Money he says that's well spent because of the high quality of sparring he gets in La La Land.
I said how refreshing it was that so many kids of Asian descent were now taking up boxing and asked him if it's because they are inspired by Khan's illustrious career. He said "That has got something to do with it but mainly it's the result of a change in parental attitude.
"Asian parents always emphasised the importance of education because they wanted their sons and daughters to be doctors or lawyers. "
"Now they can see their children can benefit their lives through sports like boxing." But he added "It's not easy for us South Asians to break through like Amir."
It won't surprise many to know Sheeraz – who lives in Ilford – inevitably has been the victim of racism. Going to his car after a training session he found a threatening note on the windscreen which read "Don't park here again" along with an obscene racist slur.
Hamzah said "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."
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With Sheeraz's family background – his father Kamran played county cricket for Gloucestershire – it's a wonder his ambition was to walk out at Lords rather than climb into a ring. If all goes to plan it will be cricket's loss and boxing's gain.
And there will hundreds of his vociferous fans from the Asian community at the Copper Box ringside next month making as much noise as they do when applauding a Pakistan or Indian test century.
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