Beeston boxer Ismail Khan shuns the Olympic stage in favour of turning professional
WITH OVER 70 fights as an amateur, including multiple national titles, Beeston boxer Ismail Khan's Team GB prospects were clear.
But Khan won’t wait to savour big stage success with the 20-year-old choosing an early crack at the professional ranks over Olympic dreams and confident of emulating Josh Warrington by becoming featherweight champion of the world.
Former Colburn School and Bradford College student Khan is nearing the end of his first week as a winning professional having made a successful debut in his first fight since leaving the amateur ranks at Leeds United’s banqueting suite last weekend.
On the undercard of Jack Bateson’s victory against Elvis Guillen, Khan had too much ammunition for Jake Pollard and swiftly recorded the first victory of his professional career via knockout.
That was a familiar feeling for Khan who enjoyed numerous successes as an amateur, winning National Association of Boys Club titles two years running as well as the English title which he defended three times.
Two university national titles were also snared by a fighter who won nine Yorkshire titles and made it to the senior ABA finals.
It naturally followed that Khan would be on the Team GB radar and the Leeds fighter swiftly completed his three GB assessments with an eye on one day representing his country at the Olympic Games.
But be that at Tokyo 2020 or Paris 2024, Khan insists he was not prepared to wait – not when presented with the prospect of cracking on as a professional and with confidence brimming after a fine amateur career.
Khan told the YEP: “It is early to turn pro’ but as an amateur I was on the GB assessment and the England pathway and I would have had to have waited for the next Olympics.
“And I just didn’t want to wait.
“I thought I might as well turn over as a pro’ and just build up really, get the rounds in and get the experience.
“I just want to have as many fights as I can and stay injury free. Get the wins in and just build up. I don’t want to rush into anything because I am still young so I can build up and we are going all the way, I’m telling you.
“I want to go to the top, I want to be a world champion and I know I have got the ability to do it all so I am going to put my heart and soul into it and I am going to do it.
“I will have a rest over the new year as I picked up a little nick on my eye so I will have a little rest and hopefully be out next in February.
“But it’s whatever my manager Mark Bateson says, when he says to fight I’m ready.”
Khan looked a man on a mission on his pro’ debut at Elland Road last weekend, swiftly batting aside his opponent in front of his home crowd.
Boxing began when dad Rash handed him a pair of gloves as a youngster and the rest is history.
“My journey into boxing was my dad,” said Khan.
“My dad didn’t really fight, he just trained.
“His dad didn’t really agree with boxing but he loves it so he got me into it and we haven’t stopped ever since.
“He got me a pair of gloves and I just started boxing and going to the gym. I started at Hunslet and I have just been fighting since.
“I had my first fight at 11 and I have had over 70 amateur fights.
“I am feeling good and I am ready to get my pro journey on the go.”
Dad Rash recalled: “When Ismail was born his mum said she didn’t want him to box but I convinced her to let him come to the gym with me.
“I bought him his first pair of gloves at the age of three and was doing pad work with him at home.
“He really took to it and started to impress me with his natural ability so when he reached the age of five I tried to find him a boxing gym to join but no gym would accept him because he was too young. I took him to muay Thai gym called Golden Team where he trained and had a couple of inter-club fights – he was getting good at it but he always loved using his hands more so I knew boxing was for him.
“Finally I got him in at Hunslet at the age of six where he trained and loved it and I also trained him at home myself.
Rash still fulfils that role even now and throughout the years Ismail has also trained at Gangsters, Burmantofts and Cleckheaton ABC as well as KBW Combat and Sports before returning to Hunslet.
The 20-year-old is now based at the Purge Boxing Academy in Batley.
“I am loving it,” said Ismail.
“I have got a good team. I have got my dad, the guys at Purge Boxing Academy and then I have got Mark Bateson my manager who has got a good set of boxers.
“He does great shows at great venues and you just can’t go wrong. I have got everything in place so the only way is up.
“I am based at Purge in Batley – that’s where I train but my manager is Mark Bateson and I go to his gym and do some training there.
“I’m lucky because I have got two bases where I can go whenever I want to get some training and sparring in.”
Plenty of sparring has been undertaken with Bateson who is slightly ahead of Khan having just enjoyed a victory in his eighth fight as a professional – and Khan admits both have the ultimate role model on their own doorstep in Warrington.
At the same weight, Khan hopes to follow his lead and will be among the huge Leeds contingent roaring on Warrington come the first defence of his title in the eagerly-awaited bout against Carl Frampton at Manchester Arena on Saturday, December 22.
“He’s paved the way for us,” said Khan. “He has paved the way for us young Leeds fighters to do what he has done and I love what he has done for the sport. I’ve not done any work with him but I would love to in the future maybe.
“It will be a good fight against Frampton and I hope he pulls it off, I do, because he has got the whole of Leeds behind him and it will be class if he does.”