Exclusive: Galal Yafai on decision to stay amateur, Tokyo 2020 goal

Joe Hewlett 18/05/2017

It was just nine months ago Team GB were jetting off to Rio de Janeiro in an attempt to prevail in Olympic glory. A record 12 boxers had qualified in separate weight categories, something that hadn’t been achieved since Los Angeles 1984.

Floyd Mayweather, Sugar Ray Leonard and the great Muhammed Ali are just a selected few who have represented their country in the Olympics.

One of those who emulated the superstars in a bid to create his own legacy was Birmingham’s light-flyweight Galal Yafai. The 24-year-old, who was eliminated in the last-16, reflected on his time in Brazil.

“I’ve been to the Olympics and reached the pinnacle of the amateur boxing, I didn’t get a medal unfortunately but I’ve learned loads from it. Beforehand I was a 28-fight novice and was chucked in the deep end. People think I’m a boxing veteran but I’m still new to it all,” Yafai exclusively told World Boxing News.

“The pressure is massive to perform and there’s a huge audience watching all over the world and everyone wants to win a medal. You feel the pressure to succeed for yourself and your family. It’s just a fight in a boxing ring at the end of the day but the build-up towards the Games is something I’ve never been involved in nor experienced before.”

Since the Olympics, Galal had some time off to figure out his next move in boxing. The lure of temptation in winning a medal at an Olympics is something he couldn’t give up. Yafai has decided to stay on as an amateur for Tokyo 2020.

“I had a bit of time off and had a good rest. Tokyo is only three years away and by the time I have fought in Tokyo I’ll only be 27-years-of-age. I want to win a medal in the Olympics before turning professional,” he pointed out.

Last week in Paris, the GB star lost out to Frenchmen Carmona Heredia in the quarter-finals of World Series Boxing. However, despite the defeat, the younger brother of Kal, has remained upbeat, sensing revenge could be on the cards.

“It was a close fight I can’t complain about losing. I watched it back and I was the better boxer but he was landing the cleaner shots so I’m not going to say I’ve been robbed because I wasn’t, though it was close.

“I hit the kids gumshield out of his mouth 5 or 6 times and he got two points taken off him and he still managed to beat me – I don’t know how I managed to lose it but it’s just one of those things, it’s all about learning.

“I beat him last year for the Olympic place in the qualifiers and I still think I’m better than him. I’m sure we’ll meet again whether it’s in the European championships or in a future tournament. It’s 1-1 now and I’ll look to avenge that defeat.

“It’s better than blowing opponents out in one or two rounds, I learn more things when I step up in opposition and that’s the main thing before I try to win gold in Tokyo,” Yafai added.

Joe Hewlett is lead writer for World Boxing News. Follow Joe on Twitter @Hewlett95