LEEDS boxing ace Qais Ashfaq has hailed “the start of something special” after turning professional under former world heavyweight champion David Haye.
Ashfaq competed at bantamweight in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games but was knocked out in the first preliminary round by Thailand’s Chatchai Butdee.
The Leeds amateur had been hoping for more having previously bagged silver at both the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and 2015 Samokov European Championships, as well as bronze at the 2015 European Games in Baku.
But 11 months on from his early Rio exit, 24-year-old Ashfaq has turned his sights to the professional ranks under Hayemaker Ringstar, the joint venture between Haye and world renowned promoter Richard Schaefer.
The duo have also announced a three-year TV rights deal with UKTV to show their fights on entertainment channel Dave.
“It’s finally here,” said Ashfaq.
“I have turned pro and I am so happy to have joined David Haye and Hayemaker Boxing.
“This is the start of something special.
“Hard work, dedication, belief. This is my time. David Haye is in my corner and I can’t wait to get started.”
Ashfaq has turned pro under Hayemaker Ringstar alongside fellow Olympian Joe Joyce plus Scottish fighter Willy Hutchinson and MMA star Michael Page.
Super heavyweight Joyce picked up a silver medal at Rio 2016 while Hutchinson has earned the mantle as the greatest Scottish amateur in history as a double World and European champion.
Hailing the signature of Ashfaq, Haye said: “Qais is fast, explosive and ready to show you what he’s all about.
“I’ve personally enjoyed huge success with UKTV, smashing viewer records on previous live broadcasts. As a result, I am thrilled to announce a long-term partnership to introduce the next generation of boxing stars to their audience.
“An incredible 40 million people tune into UKTV’s programme offering every month which without question provides the Hayemaker Ringstar stable with an incredibly strong platform for a rapidly growing fan base.”