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Britain’s Sheeraz targets world title shot in 2023

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Hamzah Sheeraz (right) has won all 15 of his professional bouts, with 11 stoppages

Middleweight Hamzah Sheeraz – the 2021 British Young Fighter of the Year – hopes to live up to his hype by challenging for a world title in 2023.

The 23-year-old from Slough has won all 15 of his fights since turning professional in 2017.

Sheeraz faces Argentine Francisco Emanuel Torres in the main event at London’s Copper Box Arena on Saturday.

“If I win I will get a top-six ranking with the WBC and then I’ll work my way up,” he says.

“He’s a game Argentinian. He’s ranked higher than me and won’t be a pushover. Hopefully this leads me on to the world stage.

“This time next year I can be challenging for a world title or, if not, a mandatory position, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

‘Young fighter award an honour’

Born in Slough, Sheeraz bases his training camp in Los Angeles under the tutelage of coach Ricky Funz at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym.

He has won 11 of his fights by stoppage and in his last outing in March stopped fellow Briton Jez Smith in the second round.

Sheeraz received the prestigious Boxing Writers’ Club award at a ceremony in May. Previous winners include former world champions Frank Bruno, Naseem Hamed, Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan.

“With the boxing writers who have been in the game for a long time – for them to pick me is an honour,” Sheeraz says.

“When I came home from America and saw my name in that book among the likes of Ricky Hatton, then it hit me. I’ve already cemented my name in history with the greats.

“It’s given me more confidence rather than add more pressure because I’m past that stage. I’ve been on TV and people know who I am and how I fight. Most people know what to expect.

“It just gives me the added boost that I’m heading in the right direction.”

Skeete backlash a ‘blessing in disguise’

Hamzah Sheeraz blocks a shot from Bradley Skeete
Sheeraz (left) controversially beat Bradley Skeete by a ninth-round stoppage last year

It has not been all plain sailing for Sheeraz, who faced a backlash from fans and pundits after a controversial win over fellow Briton Bradley Skeete in December.

In the eighth round of the contest, with Sheeraz struggling against a vastly more experienced opponent, he was docked a point for appearing to land a punch while Skeete was on the floor.

Sheeraz then dropped his opponent again in the same round, before finishing Skeete off in the ninth.

Many felt Sheeraz should have been disqualified or called for the bout to be retrospectively declared a no contest.

Sheeraz says the whole experience was a “blessing in disguise” and one which gave him “a kick up the backside”.

He adds: “There always will be backlash from it. Even if I was to win a world title, they will still hold on to that. It is what it is.

“But at the end of the day, 10 years down the line when you look at my boxing record, it will go down as a win.

“If you can take a positive from a negative situation, it was good to have that so early on in my career. If I get backlash again later in my career, I don’t think it will be as bad as that.”

Khan’s comments on Asian fighters ‘not the smartest’

Amir Khan speaks on the microphone at a press conference
Amir Khan criticised young Asian fighters for their “poor diets”

Sheeraz – born to a Pakistani father and Indian mother – believes he can play a significant role in inspiring the next generation of South Asian fighters.

“My long-term plan is to open up a promotion company and bring through young Asian talent and aid them,” he says.

But Sheeraz has criticised Briton Amir Khan – who retired this year – for comments in which he said a poor diet often prevented boxers from South Asian backgrounds reaching their full potential.

Speaking to The Guardian in May, former two-time world champion Khan said: “Our diet is appalling. It’s curries. It’s not the right diet to be a champion. If you put us against a lot of English fighters their diet is a lot better. They’re stronger than us.”

Sheeraz says he disagrees with Khan, adding: “You can’t blame it on the diet. You can’t make a generalisation. It’s not fair at all.

“Life is about balance and so is diet. You can have a bit of anything and everything.

“Look at Anthony Joshua on his Snapchat. Every other day he’s having pounded yam and he puts the nutrition benefits with it to explain to people that this is his culture and this is how it helps him.

“In professional boxing, us Asians are the minority. We need every bit of support we can get. Getting slated from our own, by someone who has done it, is not the smartest thing.”

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