At just 19 years of age and with just two pro starts on his CV, Fulham super-middle starlet Zak Chelli has many facets to develop before he fulfils his goal of global domination. Nevertheless, self-belief is certainly not among them, writes Glynn Evans.
‘I intend to become the youngest ever world super-middleweight champion, then undisputed champion,’ declares the well-spoken west Londoner who begins a degree in business management at Surrey University later this month.
‘I can change my style to whatever boxer is put in front of me. I can use my brain, box at range and slip but I like to be aggressive. I’m a hard hitter and don’t like to win on points.
‘I tend to sell the expensive ‘top end’ tickets and I like to excite the people who pay to watch me. My hero is Mike Tyson. I used to watch his fights on You Tube at break time in school. I love vicious fighters and short fights.’
Zak’s slender 6ft 1in, 12stone frame disguises his deceptive strength and chilling punch power.
He says: ‘Once a year, at primary school, we’d have this thing to see who was strongest in the year and I won every time. The only fight I actually had was on my first day at High School. After other kids witnessed the damage I inflicted, no one ever dared challenge me!’
His frightening confidence was honed following successful spars with his old Dale Youth alumni James DeGale and George Groves, plus Christopher Eubank Jr.
‘I wasn’t nervous sparring James. In fact, he backed away and called it off after two rounds,’ claims Chelli who, like Britain’s greatest ever 12 stoner Joe Calzaghe, was born in Hammersmith. (Whisper it quietly in Wales!)
‘After four rounds with Eubank Jr, his coach Ronnie Davies told me I was ‘untouchable’ which was very flattering. I caught both him and DeGale with hard shots.
‘I was offered money to spar George and we did six hard rounds straight off. I finished better than I started.
‘Halfway through, he instructed my dad to stop filming. I didn’t accept the money offered but instead told George to call me any time and I’d spar for free. He hasn’t called back!’
Son of a former pro light-heavy who duelled champions likes Mark Prince and Tony Oakey in the 1990s, Chelli began boxing before he began school!
‘I was at the Dale Youth gym from the age of four!’ claims Zak who later passed through the All Stars, Fitzroy Lodge and Times ABC set-ups.
‘I’ve seen dad (Zak Sr)’s fights on DVD and he was a very powerful guy. He won national titles in both Tunisia and Italy but sacrificed his career to raise our family. Today, he’s my main coach. As a tribute, I wore his old shorts and gown for my pro debut.
‘He’s keen for me to learn from his mistakes. He tells me how to eat, how to train, even how to sleep. I’m looking forward to going to University, to be away from his nagging (laughs!)’
A world rated (junior) amateur, Chelli the chiller won ABA Junior and Youth titles plus a Three Nations crown and made the quarter-final of the World Youth meet in the Ukraine before growing disillusioned with the simon pures.
‘I only lost six of my 46 contests but began to view amateur boxing as a waste of time,’ he explains.
‘Too often, the judging was poor and too many of the Team GB coaches were northerners who favoured northern boxers.’
The Chelsea fan certainly sizzled in his opening two gigs, slashing and dumping Trowbridge trier Jacob Lucas en route to a three round technical decision on his debut at the York Hall, then slaughtering Sheffield’s Chris Dutton in the second in Leeds last May.
‘I believe it was a punch that caused the cut against Lucas and I wanted to continue so I could kayo him,’ insists Zak.
‘Dutton had won four of five but I dropped him in the first, stopped him in the second. That showed my potential.’
The brazen banger gets to kick start his 2017-18 campaign with a fascinating test on promoter Frank Warren’s world championship card at the Copper Box on September 16th. Opponent Anthony ‘The Matador’ Fox from Wiltshire has faced 13 unbeaten fighters (plus another who was 17-1!) in his 14 starts and has drawn with four of them.
‘Fight night’s a day off! I really enjoy it,’ says the incorrigible showman.
‘I’ve checked Fox on You Tube. He’s fought many prospects yet only one stopped him. But as soon as he feels my jab, he’ll run away. I believe I will make a big statement and knock him out. I think I’m more than ready to fight for a Southern Area title already.
‘There’ll be a lot of people watching and I’ll be giving it everything. I’ve got a good set of skills and serious power. I like to send heads spinning!’
Billy Joe Saunders makes the second defence of his WBO Middleweight World title against Willie Monroe Jr in the evening's main event; Ilford Light-Heavyweight Anthony Yarde takes on Norbert Nemesapati for the WBO Intercontinental and European belts; teenage Heavyweight sensation Daniel Dubois takes on AJ Carter for the Vacant Southern Area belt in only his fifth contest; knockout artist Joe Pigford fights for the Vacant WBO European Super-Welterweight title.
Some of the very best up-and-coming prospects in the country including Welling Super-Featherweight Archie Sharp; Ilford Super-Bantamweight Lucien Reid; New Malden Super-Middleweight Lerrone Richards and Erith Flyweight Jake Pettit feature. Ilford Welterweight Hamza Sheeraz, Tamworth Light-Heavyweight Ryan Hatton and Ilford Super-Middleweight Umar Sadiq all make their highly-anticipated pro debuts.
Tickets for Saunders vs. Monroe Jr priced at £40, £50, £70, £100, £150, £200 and £250 (VIP/Hospitality) are available from www.eventim.co.uk