The small, sharp figure twisting-and-turning its way over the concrete squared-circle was majestic. On moving back to Glasgow, he’d been brought to my attention as ‘the one to watch’. The enormous 16oz gloves strapped onto the tiny arms of our subject looked almost-ridiculous. I got the sense they weren’t there for his protection.
As a professional, Kash Farooq (9-0, 3 KO’s) of Scotstoun, Glasgow, could do no wrong. He fights on September 27th for the British bantamweight title, facing off against Jamie Wilson (11-2, 1 KO).
It was an unusual night for a British title fight – a Thursday. After meeting Farooq in Sam Kynoch’s gym two weeks before his toughest test, I’d been keen to understand his introduction to the sport. His accent was potently Glaswegian, with an undeniable twang attached.
“I was born in Pakistan and I came here when I was five or six-years-old. I grew up here most of my life after I came here as a wee boy.
Obviously, I still have memories back home and I’ve been back [to Pakistan] a few times, but Glasgow has been my home for the last sixteen years. It was different, when I was a young boy coming here, it was very different. It was hard for us, my Mum and me, [and] my older brothers. We had moved away from the rest of the family, my cousins, and it was only us here, you know? The first few years are hard but you become used to life here in Glasgow and it becomes like a home to you and, well, here we are now.”
Kash, or Ukashir to give him his full name, had stumbled into boxing almost by chance. As with many other fighters, the young Scot’s interest in sports led to his attendance at a local gym. The rest was history, but only after the intervention of the gym’s head coach.
“My upbringing was quite good, to be honest. I was just a normal kid, I went to high school in Glasgow and everything, then I was introduced to boxing.
“I think I was fourteen or fifteen and my friend took me down to the gym and that was it. I think I punched a few bags and I was about to walk out of the gym, there was nothing I was really interested in. The trainer came up to me, he was a former fighter himself and told me, ‘Listen, for training come back here, you can punch!’ and that was it, I was back there the next night, you know?
“I stuck at it and I’m here now. He was called Bobby McDermott [my trainer], he was my first trainer and he fought Dave ‘Boy’ McAuley on the undercard of Barry McGuigan v Pedrosa.”
I’d been researching my Grandad’s Uncle, an amateur from Glasgow who is the only recorded amateur to win titles at every weight, from flyweight to heavyweight. Bertie Scott, whom I sadly never met, used to run an amateur club in Glasgow’s meat market and Farooq was the worthy winner of the ‘Bertie Scott’ trophy as an amateur, for most impressive boxer at the Western District championships. Six degrees of separation weren’t required on this occasion.
Although his bout with Jamie Wilson was only days away, there seemed a sense of disappointment surrounding the ‘vacant’ title. Kash wasn’t hiding from previous champion Josh Wale, a domestic fighter with nine losses who had turned his career around. Wale had vacated, looking for bigger fights, and in his absence it was time for a new champion.
The battle between Dundee’s Wilson and Glasgow’s Farooq was refreshing for the Scottish small hall scene, re-assuring fighters on the cards up-and-down the country that titles could be wrestled back to home soil.
The Renfrewshire Boxing Club-trained fighter had been ticking over since the turn of the New Year. Often fighters with delayed contests suffer burnout from over-training, but Farooq was positive this wouldn’t be an issue.
“I’ve been in camp for a while now, you know? Obviously I’ve been waiting for the British title since January, I’ve been the mandatory since January and I’ve been training since then. I haven’t really taken time off since then, I’ve just been in the gym and been [continuously] training. I think it’s been the perfect preparation, to be honest.
We were after the Josh Wale fight, [when that never materialised] I did take a bit of time off, a couple of weeks. Then we got back in the gym, nothing crazy training-wise but just practising my moves and perfecting my craft.”
Now, still only twenty-two-years-old, the Craig Dickson prodigy has the chance to forever cement himself in the history books. To become a British champion in only his tenth fight would turn the heads of the larger British promoters. Dickson struck me as a young, passionate-but-strategic coach after I’d watched him work with Boris Creighton and Kash during his session at Kynoch’s Gym. He was excited, telling me it was ‘almost time now!’.
The talented fighter had won thirty-eight of his forty-nine amateur bouts, capturing district and national titles along the way. Yet, the pace of his progression amongst the paid ranks had been unexpected. The career of the smaller men was often shorter, peaking at some stage in their mid-to-late twenties. It was with this in mind, that Kash and Craig were prepared to throw themselves into the lion’s den. Despite his age, inexperience and relatively low-profile, Farooq felt he was primed to capture the Lord Lonsdale belt.
“Obviously my career has moved quite quickly, after my third fight I boxed for a Scottish Challenge title and I’ve been pushed quite quickly. I didn’t have a crazy amateur pedigree or anything like that, I had forty-nine fights, I lost eleven. So, it wasn’t a crazy amateur career. I’ve been moved at these weights and at this stage in my career – it’s a perfect fight for me, Jamie Wilson. It’s the right fight for me at the right time.”
Article by: Craig Scott
Follow Craig on Twitter at: @craigscott209