As Amir Khan begins to wind down his decorated ring career, gifted Gants Hill teenager Hamzah Sheeraz fantasises of picking up the mantle for Britain’s sizeable and expanding Pakistani fight community, writes Glynn Evans.
They don’t tax you for dreaming!
A three time national junior finalist who has already been boxing for a decade, sharpshooter Sheeraz replicated the Bolton wonder by inking a pro deal with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren earlier this year – amidst much fanfare – at the callow age of 18.
‘Amir was a hero so, in time, it’d be nice to pick up the reins!’ quips the Andy Ayling managed super-welter who debuts in a four rounder against 173 fight veteran Kevin McCauley on the monster bill at The Copper Box on Saturday week.
‘I signed my pro contract on my 18th birthday so it was a dual celebration with a huge turnout of family and friends. A lot of the Pakistani media channels were there and I know my community is right behind me. Hopefully, I can give them somebody to look up to and follow.
‘I was born in Slough and still help out with a bit of coaching at an Asian community centre over there when I can. So we’ve west London and east London on board. I’ve already sold 250 tickets for my debut.’
The Essex express first laced up shortly after starting junior school.
‘My uncle Humeran was a multiple national champion for the Slough and Pinewood Star clubs and he steered me to the Debden amateur gym when I was just eight,’ recalls the handsome and articulate Sheeraz who is schooled by Lennie Butcher at the thriving Five Star gym in Romford.
‘Though I was energetic, I was always a calm kid but when I began hitting the pads, the coach John Maskell told me I had natural hand speed and footwork.
‘When I was 13, I represented England schoolboys over in Denmark and made it to three national junior finals but got edged out each time. I was always extremely tall and rangy for my weight and, as a youngster, used to fly around the ring popping the jab. Not many could touch me. I only lost ten or 11 of my 80 amateur bouts.
‘But after being overlooked for the Commonwealth Youth championships, I got a bit disillusioned and took a break. I wasn’t enjoying my apprenticeship as an electrician so when Lennie offered me an opportunity to turn pro I took the plunge. Lennie’s more than a coach. I can talk to him about anything. He helps sort my problems and a happy fighter is a good fighter.’
As one on the nation’s youngest pros, the swift and stylish Sheeraz can expect an extended apprenticeship whilst his frame acclimatizes to the austere demands of the profession.
‘We’ll just take things step by step, aim for a Southern Area title then take things from there,’ he says.
‘For the pros, I’m learning to set my feet more and work inside. I do a lot of ‘in house’ sparring with Sanjeev (Singh Sahota) and Harley Benn.
‘But the best I’ve sparred would have to be (British welterweight king) Bradley Skeete over at Al Smith’s gym. Similar to me, he’s tall and rangy and possesses the best jab I’ve ever been hit with. Brad’s such a humble guy yet there’s so much I can learn from him.
‘I’m a 6ft 2in super-welter so unsurprisingly my best punch is the jab. Everything comes off that. In addition to Amir, my ring heroes are Pernell Whittaker and Tommy Hearns. Today, I study Terence Crawford. I’m big into the way he switches and changes angles.’
Expect an Asian invasion at the old Olympic venue later this month, as his community converge and provide their protégé with a rousing send-off ahead of his new venture.
‘Debuting on a world championship undercard is massive; a terrific bill to get some recognition,’ he concludes.
‘It’s great to be facing someone so experienced. I can’t help but learn from Kevin. Hopefully, I can showcase my skills and show I’ve the potential to be up among the stars myself one day.’
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-Heavy powerhouse Anthony Yarde fights for the Vacant WBO Inter-Continental Title; teenage Heavyweight sensation Daniel Dubois takes on AJ Carter for the Vacant Southern Area strap 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; Fulham Super-Middleweight Zak Chelli, 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