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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 September 2018

British-Arab ‘Kid Galahad’ wants to throw his weight around in boxing world

Ahead of his European super bantamweight title bout, the British boxer of Arab origin talks about his aim to be king of the ring as world champion across different categories.
Abdul Barry Awad took up the alias ‘Kid Galahad’ on advice from trainer Brendan Ingle, and is fighting Sergio Prada for the European super bantamweight title on Saturday. Courtesy Hennessy Sports
Abdul Barry Awad took up the alias ‘Kid Galahad’ on advice from trainer Brendan Ingle, and is fighting Sergio Prada for the European super bantamweight title on Saturday. Courtesy Hennessy Sports

“I’m better looking than him and I’m going to be a better fighter than him.”

So says Abdul Barry Awad, or “Kid Galahad”, as the ring name has it, of “Prince” Naseem Hamed.

The first part of that statement we will leave to others to decide, though he is not wildly off the mark. But the second, more-important part, only time will tell.

Whatever Awad does over the rest of his boxing career, and he is confident he will do a lot, the 24-year-old boxer will find it hard to not be associated with the Prince, who, for a brief period, was the brightest, flashiest British prospect in the sport.

Like Hamed, Awad is of Yemeni origin. Like Hamed, he is proud of his Arab roots, except Awad has deeper roots to the region.

He was born in Doha, where much of his extended family still live, and his father has been in Dubai for the last 10 years.

He also has an authentic Arab accent when pronouncing his full name, or Qatar, though he occasionally slips back into that peculiarly broad Sheffield style.

Like Hamed, Awad is from the city of Sheffield, in England’s biggest county of Yorkshire.

Like Hamed, he is someone to get excited about, currently a super-bantamweight with a 15-0 record on the verge of making it big.

And like Hamed, he, too, is a product of the legendary gym of trainer Brendan Ingle. It was an encounter with Hamed in a Sheffield mosque, in fact, that redirected a loafing Awad to Ingle.

“Basically, where we live in Sheffield was pretty rough,” Awad said. “If I had to live there, I had to fight a bit. I wanted to learn how to fight and get a bit bigger. There was a gym in town somewhere, but it only had a couple of weights, a boxing ring.

“So I went to the mosque where Prince Nas went and I went to him and said, ‘Nas, I want to start boxing.’ He said, ‘If you want to be a champion you need to go to Brendan Ingle’ – that was his old trainer. I went looking for his gym and it took me about a day because it’s on the other side of Sheffield. I got there and told Brendan, ‘I want to be a champion’.”

Awad was, by his own admission, trouble. Ingle and boxing gave him direction and focus.

On his first morning, at 6, Ingle made him sweep the streets outside the gym for an hour and a half. Then he brought him inside to train, and in the afternoon, made him sweep again outside.

Then, until 6 in the evening, more training. He had been kicked out of school, so Ingle enrolled him in one up the road.

Soon he was coming into the gym at 6am, training until school, attending school, coming back to train until 6pm, before heading back home. That gruelling routine would not change for three years.

“I’ve spent more time with Brendan and Dominic [his son and a trainer], than I have with my own family,” Awad said.

“I’ve spent more time with them than with my own parents. It is a deep bond, but if you want to be the best at what you do, if you want to be great, you’ve got to live it.”

It was on Ingle’s suggestion that he became Kid Galahad, sparked by a viewing of the Elvis Presley film of the same name from 1962.

“He’s the king of rock and you’re going to be the king of the ring,” Brendan told him.

“I always look up to Brendan,” Awad said. “He always advises me and whenever he does, it’s always the right thing.”

On Saturday in Sheffield, Awad fights Sergio Prada for the vacant European super-bantamweight title. It is just another step into what he sees as his inevitable rise to greater feats.

Beating highly regarded Jazza Dickens in September with a 10th-round knockout alerted people in Britain to his skills. Now he has the world in his sights.

“Within 15 months, I want to be world champion,” he said. “By the time I finish boxing, I want to be world champion in 3-4 weights.

“Brendan told me I would be better than Prince Nas, and that I will be a world champion. Sergio’s tough. He can punch. He is going to come to fight.

“It is basically a tough test, but I know the way I’ve been training, the way I am, I’ll be too much for him. I am going to go in there and take him apart, dismantle him, dissect him.”

After that, he wants to go to Qatar with a title belt in his hands.

“You come from your roots, you are who your roots are,” he said. “Today I am proud to be from Qatar.”

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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