No fight too big for ambitious Leeds puncher Qais Ashfaq

LEEDS boxer Qais Ashfaq is not hanging about in his pursuit of glories as a professional.

Saturday, 9th November 2019, 7:00 am
MAN ON A MISSION: Leeds boxer Qais Ashfaq, right, in action action against Jay Carney in Sheffield last December. Photo by Nigel Roddis/Getty Images.

Just two years after turning pro, the 26-year-old’s eighth fight has landed him his first title with the WBA Continental super bantamweight belt around his waist to finish 2019.

If Ashfaq has his way, Brad Foster’s British and Commonwealth titles will be next for a fighter who would even take on world champions Daniel Roman and Rey Vargas, declaring: “they have only got two arms and two legs.”

Ashfaq has made swift progress since turning pro in July 2017 with the Rio 2016 Olympian taking his first title at Manchester Arena last weekend by defeating Scotland’s Joe Ham to land the vacant WBA Continental super bantamweight crown.

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Ham and Ashfaq are old adversaries with the two having fought four times in the amateur ranks including in the quarter-finals of the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Yet even with his pro career still very much in its infancy, Ashfaq already has his eyes on his weight’s biggest names in two-belt world champion Roman and unbeaten WBC title holder Vargas.

"I have been asked a couple of times what’s next and it’s whatever they put in front of me,” said Ashfaq.

“I want it all basically and I don’t look at what route I have got to take, I just listen to my team, my coach, my management and Eddie Hearn.

“Whoever they tell me to fight, all I know in my head is that I’ve got to beat them, simple as that. With the amateur pedigree that I have got, I got in a habit of surprising myself.

“When I first started fighting in internationals, I used to think ‘bloody hell I have got to fight this Russian, this Uzbek or this Kazak’ or whatever. But when I got in there I thought ‘do you know what? They have only got two arms and two legs.’

“You just have to believe in yourself, make sure you prepare fully and in my own head and heart I believe I can go out there and beat anyone.

“You can’t think of them as ‘his record is this, his record is that, he’s the WBC champion’. You’ve got to think of them like ‘I am going to go out there no matter who it is and I am going to beat them because I am fully prepared and I believe in my ability.’

“Before I boxed Joe Ham I’d had seven fights, he’d had 18 and lost one. He wasn’t a mug but I went out there, I was confident, did everything right, I made the weight perfectly, I trained like an animal and won the fight, in my own opinion very easily.”

Ashfaq was awarded victory following a clash of heads with Ham deemed in no fit state to continue with Ashfaq able to show off his first pro belt this week at the Moss Side Gym in Manchester and VIP Gym in Astley where he trains.

Ashfaq says the next natural step would be a fight against Foster for his British and Commonwealth belts.

“The good thing about the Continental belt is that with the WBA I believe it gets you into the top 15 in the world in their rankings which is great if we are looking to go the WBA route,” said Ashfaq.

“But, at the same time, now that I have got this belt I am also still looking to win the British and Commonwealth belts when I can finally get matched up with Brad Foster.

"He is with Frank Warren, though and the main way to get hold of that belt would be to become mandatory challenger for the British title.

“That makes it a bit complicated but I want to get my hands on the British and Commonwealth and then the European and then the World and bring home them world titles.”

Big plans for a boxer making big strides yet the week immediately after landing his first pro title he was instead focused on home and family life.

Ashfaq and his partner got married last summer and he revealed: “She’s been on my case already!

“In camps you can switch off and it’s all about the fight but she’s already dragged me out of bed to take her for breakfast in the morning! She’s hot on my heels but it’s understandable. It’s been nice to spend a bit of time together.”