After producing his first knockout victory at the O2 Arena back in June – demolishing Kamil Al Temimi in just three rounds – Umar Sadiq returns to the ring on 20th October against Zak Chelli, in a clash of two undefeated super middleweights.
Ilford based Sadiq, now 3-0 (1 KO), has vowed to put on a masterclass performance in front of his fans at the Brentwood Centre. Sharing a card with several top prospects including Anthony Yarde and Nathan Gorman, it is his fight with Chelli, however, that is grabbing the headlines.
Boxing Social caught up with Sadiq during the final stages of camp as he prepares for what he believes is the biggest fight of his career so far.
“It’s going great!” said Sadiq.
“This is the longest camp I have had so far. I’m learning new things about myself being in a longer camp. I’m gonna call it a big fight because it’s the biggest fight of my career so far.
“I’m learning a lot about myself – but ultimately I’m learning how to train better.”
During his relatively short time as a professional boxer, Sadiq has enjoyed the privilege of sharing the ring with World level combatants such as James DeGale, George Groves, Billy Joe Saunders and Frank Buglioni. It is these experienced that he believes will serve him well come fight night.
“I have had some really good sparring. I have sparred George Groves (before his bout with Callum Smith), I have been up to the English Institute of Sport sparring some of the best amateur boxers in the country.”
“I have been in with a lot of good pros as well in the Peacock Gym. There has been a vast mix of styles that I have sparred with to prepare me for whatever Zak may bring on the night.”
Nigeria-born Sadiq moved to the UK in 2000 and found himself immersed in the world of boxing after taking up boxercise for fitness at a local community centre when he was 16-years-old.
The fitness sessions were run by former welterweight Tony Cesay, who stayed by his side throughout an amateur career that saw him crowned a two-time Haringey Box Cup champion, English champion, triple Northeast London champion and Nigerian champion.
“I trained with Tony Cesay all the way through.” recalls the amiable 30-year-old.
“I was able to travel and box: I boxed in various ABA tournaments, I won the North-East London Championship, British University Championships, I won the Haringey Box Cup, I boxed for London, England and Nigeria, and I was in the Nigerian Olympic team.”
He would made the final qualifiers as part of the Nigerian 2016 Olympic team. However, after seemingly dominating his Russian opponent, Sadiq would fall victim to a shock decision by the judges; destroying his Olympic dream and changing the course of his career.
As well as being an accomplished amateur boxer, the self-styled ‘Top Boxer’ also undertook a degree in accounting at London Metropolitan University. Balancing his studies with his boxing career was something that came relatively easy to Sadiq.
“At the time, for the most part I only had to train once a day, so it was just a matter of finding the time to do the boxing training and the rest of the time I was studying or doing other things”
Known in boxing circles for his astute use of social media, it is perhaps unsurprising that, at one time, Sadiq used his PR skills in a short – but succcessful – stint as a music manager: helping a group of close friends appear in clubs, boxing shows and other events.
“It started with a group of my mates and I.” reminisces Sadiq.
“Well, there were two artists and the others were supporting in terms of PR management. I kept giving them good advice – the best moves to make and how to go about things – so one day they said, ‘are you sure you don’t want to just manage us?’ so I said I could do that as well!”
“It worked quite well – I got them performances in a lot of clubs and events, so I did well!”
Seemingly not content with his extensive and remarkably varied C.V., Sadiq also boasts a successful modelling career. After beginning in the industry in 2011 he has booked featured as Anthony Joshua’s body double, as well as starring alongside David Beckham in a television commercial.
With two diverse career paths, many worry that one profession will damage the other. It is something that, while mindful, Sadiq isn’t overly concerned with moving forwards.
“I take it as motivation to keep my defence tight – so far so good!” he laughs.
“There have been one or two times when I have gone to a casting and I’ve got a little scuff on the side of my face, but I don’t feel that has ever being a problem. It is a concern that a lot of people express though understandably!”
Leaving behind his obvious talent as a music manager and his London based accountancy position has not fazed Sadiq – with the 6ft 3″ contender claiming that his love for boxing coincided well with his keep-fit lifestyle.
“I never gave it much thought [boxing as a professional] it just happened naturally.
“I started boxing at 16 and I did it to keep fit – but there was something about it that I loved. That period was when I first got in to fitness and actually living a healthy lifestyle, eating well and I did it meticulously.
“Over the years, the only way I know how to stay fit and live a healthy lifestyle is through boxing – and for one reason or another I have always continued to be in boxing.”
“I believe in universal laws, so when I decided I was going to turn pro and leave my accountancy job to box: I did it with the faith that I have I knew that things were going to work out. When your gut speaks to you, you just have to follow it.”
While some struggle with the transition from amateur to professional, Sadiq cites joining two-time World champion James DeGale’s training camp as an invaluable education and insight into life in the professional game.
“It was just over a year between my last amateur fight and my first professional fight – but I was training throughout the whole time. Training as a pro, sparring James DeGale for the Badou Jack fight, sparring a whole bunch of other pros.
“Whether it was going to gyms, press conferences, weigh-ins, the whole lot – I had a year to transition into it. I feel like I served an apprenticeship that made everything happen quite smoothly”
Now based at the Peacock Gym in Canning Town under the watchful eye of Brian O’Shaughnessy – alongside the likes of Commonwealth cruiserweight champion Lawrence Okolie and unbeaten light heavyweight prospect Dan Azeez – Sadiq explained how he came to be signed by Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren.
“I have boxed at a high level: I only had nine novice bouts in the amateurs and I had 25 bouts in total – so I have had 36 fights either against the elites in the country or World champions from other countries.”
“Bringing that CV to the table to Frank and Eddie [Hearn] at the time, I felt very confident that I was going to sign with one of them.
“Coincidentally, I did have an offer from both, but I had better chemistry with Frank – and the deal that he offered made more sense than the one that Eddie was offering – so I went with Frank.”
Although grateful for his opportunity, Sadiq admits that it is easy for him to forget the meaning of being offered contracts by the two top promoters in British boxing, understanding and recognising the struggle that a lot of fighters face.
“Sometimes I do overlook what it means: until I meet other boxers who would do anything they can to be signed by either Frank or Eddie.
“Like I said, I took my time I grafted hard inside the gym: signing with Frank Warren at the time was a no brainer.”
Despite being in the early stages of his professional career, Sadiq has already set his sights on claiming titles – looking past this weekend’s clash with Chelli in targeting the English strap by the end of 2018.
“I was targeting Darren Williams that was because he was English champion, but I have since learnt that he has relinquished it so currently I have not got any particular target – but I would still like to have the English title by the end of the year.”
As the interview drew to a close, the precocious Sadiq spoke of his long-term ambitions in the sport – stating that his dream would see him become undisputed World champion in not one, but two weight classes.
“I can do anything I put my mind to.” said Sadiq.
“The end goal is to be the undisputed World super middleweight champion – then later on I’m going to become the undisputed World light heavyweight champion.”
Article by: Emmily Simcock
Follow Emmily on Twitter at: @emmily_jane