“To be honest, his main concern is the European title fight. He should be more focused on that and forget about me.”
It took nearly a year, but last weekend we finally witnessed the Matchroom Boxing debut of Kash Farooq.
The 24-year-old Pakistani who has lived in Glasgow since he was a child signed for Eddie Hearn last December one month after his thrilling battle with Edinburgh’s Lee McGregor for the British and Commonwealth bantamweight titles. That night in Glasgow, McGregor got the nod on some tight scorecards. Farooq may have lost his British title, which he had already won outright, but a contract with Hearn certainly eased the pain of defeat.
“He is a special talent,” Hearn said at the time. “He will be back in a title fight in the spring.”
Life as we know it was then thrown out the window a few months later when the United Kingdom went into lockdown because of the impact the deadly Coronavirus was having on our lives. Boxing has found a new normality since returning in late summer but the beginning of Farooq’s Matchroom career has had a few hiccups prior to last weekend.
“It felt great,” said Farooq (14-1, 6 KOs) talking to Boxing Social earlier this week about his win over Mexican Angel Aviles (W10), which saw him claim the vacant WBA Continental bantamweight title.
“It was like I never left. With the recent disappointments I’ve had, this was worth it. It was worth the wait.”
The disappointments Farooq referred to started in April when his spot on the Lewis Ritson-Miguel Vazquez undercard was pulled because boxing closed its doors due to the pandemic. Farooq was then due to fight on the Oleksandr Usyk-Dereck Chisora pay-per-view show against Martin Tecuapetla. The Scot was pulled from the card, having weighed in on the Friday, when a member of his own team tested positive for Covid-19.
“If one of your team tests positive then the whole team is wiped out. At the beginning, we thought it’s not our problem he’ll need to go up the road but then soon after the fight’s called off. Obviously, I was gutted but it is what it is. You just move on. I just got back to training and looked forward to the next date and that was it.”
A spot was offered on the triple header world-title card at Wembley Arena, headlined by the newly crowned women’s pound-for-pound ruler Katie Taylor. It was an easy decision for Farooq to make and the 10 rounds that Sky viewers and those watching online via YouTube watched left many a fan and members of the boxing industry purring.
Arguably the highest compliment came from boxing broadcaster Alex Steedman. The former Boxnation presenter and current commentator for MTK Global’s YouTube broadcasts compared Farooq to Nicaraguan future hall-of-famer Roman ‘Chocolatito’ Gonzalez. ‘Farooq is so smooth, so good. Scotland’s Chocolatito,’ he tweeted on Saturday night during Farooq’s performance.
“Brilliant,” Farooq laughed when BoxingSocial relayed the compliment to him.
“It’s great. A lot of people were telling me social media was blowing up. Fighters, ex-fighters and trainers were all paying me compliments. I thank every one of them, and it shows that hard work does pay off. I’ve not had a great year, but this really has topped it off. I was just really happy to be out and showcase my skills to a bigger audience on Sky Sports and online.”
However, Sky Boxing pundit Johnny Nelson – who himself was full of praise for Farooq’s abilities – told host Anna Woolhouse that he was concerned about Farooq’s lack of power in the fight and stated it may prove a problem as the bantamweight moves up in class.
Farooq wasn’t disappointed or annoyed by the comments as some others were online and gave this reaction to what the former world cruiserweight champion said:
“Maybe the opponent [Aviles] was just a tough boy. I think he’s only been stopped once in his whole career. He must have been 17 or 18 [at the time] and he’s 27 now so that was eight years ago,” said Farooq. “At this stage of a career, you’re going to get criticism. For me, I’ve just got to take it on the chin. Everyone’s got an opinion. I’ve just got to take it and then go out there and prove what I can do. In some fights you can try as much as you can but some of these boys are really tough. Some fighters have just got granite chins. As time goes on, we will find out about my power.”
Boxing Social asked Farooq if he thought it was better to get the 10 rounds against a typically tough Mexican rather than finishing your first fight in 11 months in a round or two.
“Ten rounds are better than a first or second round knockout,” he said. “You want to pick up the 10 rounds for the long-term. It’s experience. For me, it’s done me the world of good. I’m happy to pick the 10 rounds up. It’s kicked the cobwebs off going forward. I’m happy overall. I’m not disappointed.”
For now, having trained since June, Farooq is going to have a rest. Initially, we thought he meant a week or two but no. Instead it will be a couple of days off before doing some running and returning to the gym under the tutelage of trainer Craig Dickson.
“This is my job, this is what I do, this is my profession. I want to perfect my craft.”
Hearn has said that he wants Farooq to have one more fight, likely in the first quarter of next year, before putting his new Scottish star into a rematch with Lee McGregor in front of what he hopes is a packed house at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro. The pair have been constantly linked with a rematch since they fought last year. Farooq says he will fight who his team put in front of him and won’t think about anything else until then. And until they do meet, he urged his domestic rival to concentrate on what lies ahead.
“To be honest, his main concern is the European title fight [against Karim Guerfi]. He should be more focused on that and forget about me,” said Farooq. “It’s a step at a time in boxing. You can’t underestimate what’s in front of you. Even that fight there that I had [on Saturday], when I was boxing, I didn’t care about McGregor. I was focused on Angel [Aviles]. If [Guerfi] beats McGregor then talk of the fight stops straight away so what you want to do is look at what’s in front of you and focus on him and after that you can take it from there.
“At the moment, things are unpredictable especially because of Covid. We don’t know when things are going to go back to normal. England is in lockdown at the moment and Glasgow is going into Tier 4 (which instructs people to stay at home). Things are unpredictable in the UK and the world. Don’t get me wrong, McGregor is a big, big fight. Financially, it’s brilliant for me, I’m not going to say it’s not. For my profile, it’s a big fight and even for him it’s big fight, but at this time I’m not thinking about fighting, I’m wanting to rest up. With the headache we’ve had the last four to five weeks, I just want to give my mind and body a rest.”
Main image: Dave Thompson/Matchroom Boxing.