Kal Yafai - 'I've surprised myself a little bit'

High-flying bantamweight Kal Yafai meets the Spanish champion Jorge Perez in Betfair’s ‘Christmas Cracker’ at the London Olympia live on Sky Sports on Saturday (December 8) and he has fired a warning to his domestic rivals – I’m coming for you in 2013.

Yafai has raced to 5-0 in his first six months in the pro ranks and has earned rave reviews with four stoppage wins from his first five clashes, the last one coming in just 52 seconds live on Sky Sports against rated Italian Pio Nettuno on the Carl Froch vs. Yusaf Mack undercard. Promoter Eddie Hearn has spoken of the difficulties in matching the Birmingham talent and steps him up in class again on Saturday against Perez – but Yafai is adamant he can live up to expectations.
“That is the thing; everyone is expecting me to get people out of there early now,” said Yafai. “I just get on and do what I do, think about winning round by round and if the knockout comes it comes.
“I have surprised myself a little bit. I thought it would be a lot tougher, a lot harder to adapt to the pro ranks. But I have taken to it really well and I am really enjoying it and I think that is one of the most important things because when you enjoy it you perform.
“It was an early finish in Nottingham but it was another win, another knockout and it came with a good body shot. I didn’t expect it to finish so early. I had watched him on YouTube and things like that and I expected it to go a bit longer than it did. It was a perfectly-placed body shot that got him out of there.
“I would like to get some more rounds in and hopefully I will get some more in on Saturday. It isn’t a big problem that I am not getting lots of rounds in because I train really hard, I spar with top-class fighters up to lightweights and light welterweights, so I am sparring big fighters, strong fighters and technically very sound fighters. Two weeks before the fight I was training Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday eight rounds each day and it has been great.”
Perez won the Spanish title in October against Ivan Pozo, who lost to Jamie McDonnell for the European title in March, and with a WBO European title loss against Ali Hallab in May also on his record from his 16 fights, the 28 year old represents another step up for Yafai.
“I said to Eddie that I will fight anybody, I think that is the way fighters are,” said Yafai. “If he gives me a name I will jump at it. If he gave me a British or European champion now I would jump at the chance. Eddie knows what he is doing with me and I leave it down to him. I just do the training and get in there and deliver the goods on the night.
“I watched him fight against a guy I know called Ali Hallab. He looked good, he put Hallab down early in the fight which shows he can hit a bit but he ended up being knocked out with a left to the body and when I saw that I thought ‘well that’s an opening there’.”
After turning pro following a good amateur career that took in the 2008 Beijing Olympics among multiple titles wearing head guard and vest, Yafai believes he has mixed with top class opposition already is targeting title shots next year.
“I am not here to mess about and wait around,” said Yafai. “I have the pedigree, I am fighting these fighters and getting them out really quickly so the quicker I can step up the better. The better the opponent, the better performance people will see out of me because I get to show people a lot more of what I am capable of doing.
“Hopefully there will be some sort of title fight early next year. Whether it is an Area or an English title, I will take anything that comes my way.”
If Yafai can move to 6-0 with another stoppage win on Saturday he will end a topsy-turvy year on a real high. He was tipped to succeed at the 2012 Olympic Games in London but lost out on a place in the squad in a box-off against Andrew Selby. That disappointment gave way to excitement at turning pro, and with a headline-fight lined up in Wolverhampton in January, 2013 promises to be a huge year for Yafai.
“Last November I was in a bad way because I had missed out on the Olympics which I had spent four years training hard for,” said Yafai. “I managed to pick myself up and turned over and I have had a really good start and now I am just really excited about the future. From when I turned pro to now has been brilliant. It has been a lot of hard work but I have got out what I have put in and I want to continue that into next year now.”
Yafai’s fight with Perez is part of a line-up of British talent in London with Darren Barker’s return to action against fellow former European middleweight champion Kerry Hope topping the bill. John Ryder faces a crunch middleweight test against fellow unbeaten fighter Eamonn O’Kane in an eliminator for the British title whole Erick Ochieng defends his English light middleweight title against British title challenger Max Maxwell, and unbeaten cruiserweight Wadi Camacho faces Toks Owoh for the vacant Southern Area strap.
American welterweight star Carson Jones faces Dean Byrne in an eight rounder and impressive young former Team GB stars Martin J. Ward and Callum Smith continue their pro education.
Tickets for Betfair’s ‘Christmas Cracker’ are on sale now priced £40 unreserved, £60 corner ringside, £80 ringside and £150 VIP. Tickets are available from Matchroom Sport on 01277 359900 and at www.matchroomboxing.com

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