From the moment Kid Galahad watched ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed halt Tom ‘Boom Boom’ Johnson, he was transfixed by boxing.
Galahad would run into Hamed a few weeks later at the local mosque. Hamed told the starstruck, pre-teen wannabe that, if he harboured desires of becoming a world champion, he had to find one man – Brendan Ingle.
When Galahad set foot in St. Thomas’ Boys and Girls club – better known as the Ingle Gym – his life suddenly had purpose.
For the next 16 years, Galahad dedicated his life to the sport, training under Brendan and, his son, Dominic.
Shortly before his passing in May 2018, Brendan handed Galahad one last gift – a t-shirt from Hamed’s fight with Johnson, the night the ‘Prince’ added the IBF 126lbs strap to his WBO version.
For Galahad, it was a sign; it was his destiny to defeat IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington.
Prior to his world title challenge last June, Galahad described it as, “Do or die”. His measured, calculated style was capable of frustrating fans and fighters in equal measure. If he were to be unsuccessful, he feared opportunities would be few and far between. Without a trade or qualifications to fall back on, success was essential.
After 12 cagey, close rounds, Galahad had nullified the champion’s offence and silenced the usually raucous Leeds crowd. He was certain he had done enough.
Two out of the three judges disagreed and Galahad was handed his first defeat as a professional by split decision. For the first time in over a decade, Galahad had to swallow the bitter pill of failure, his dream denied by the smallest of margins.
“I went back to my changing room and it’s just a weird one because it’s a different kind of vibe,” Galahad told Boxing Social. “I thought, ‘Fucking hell.’ I couldn’t believe it to be honest. It’s just one of them things. Things happen in life. You have to continue, you can’t let things eat away at you. You can’t self-destruct. You’ve got to use them negatives as a positive.
“The aim of the game is to hit and not get hit. It’s just like football. I have two shots and score two goals and you have 10 shots and miss 10, I’ve still won. It doesn’t matter if you throw more or if you put more pressure on. There were times in that fight where he wasn’t putting pressure on me. He makes out he was coming at me for 12 rounds straight, but he never does anything for the first two minutes [of a round]. There were times when he was holding!”
The sombre atmosphere was lifted by the larger than life Naseem Hamed. The ‘Prince’ may have been Galahad’s initial inspiration to lace up the gloves, but stylistically the pair are diametrically opposed. Hamed was flashy, destructive and never afraid to gamble. Galahad on the other hand has historically been risk-adverse, awkward and content to cruise to a wide decision victory rather than attempting to force a stoppage.
Hamed encouraged Galahad (27-1, 16 KOs) to adopt a more ruthless mindset.
“I remember after the fight, Nas came up to me and said, ‘You should have won that fight. You need to bring your own referee and judges to the game,’” Galahad recalled. “I thought, ‘You know what, he’s right.’ You can’t leave the decision in the judges’ hands, you’ve got to bring your own judges.
“When Nas said that to me, I went back to the gym the next day and thought, ‘He’s right’. I remember Brendan telling me that years ago as well, it made me remember what Brendan had said. That’s stuck with me now. It’s more or less me against the world. They are not going to give someone like me a fair share.”
Galahad’s fears of being frozen out of the world title picture were misplaced. The IBF granted him an opportunity to secure another shot at destiny with a final eliminator against slick southpaw Claudio Marrero.
With the words of Hamed at the forefront of his mind, Galahad produced a career-best performance, adding ferocity to his finesse. From the opening bell, Galahad systematically broke down his opponent, obliging Marrero’s corner to ask referee Howard Foster to stop the contest after the eighth round.
That victory has handed Galahad the opportunity to gain redemption with another crack at Warrington. The IBF tend to be the strictest of the four major sanctioning bodies when it comes to enforcing mandatories, stating that they must occur every nine months. Warrington fulfilled his last mandatory obligation against Galahad in June last year. Ostensibly, the rematch should be next for both men once boxing resumes; however, there has been speculation that Warrington could face WBA ‘Regular’ champion, Xu Can next as unifications take precedence over mandatory defences.
The IBF does not recognise the WBA ‘Regular’ strap, but with WBA ‘Super’ featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz seemingly moving up to lightweight, Xu could be upgraded to full champion. This possibility does not sit well with Galahad.
“They are saying [Warrington] is going to have a unification fight, he can’t have a unification fight,” he said. “Against who? Xu Can? Xu Can is not a world champion, he’s got a regular title. The only way Xu Can is a world champion is if they make him into a world champion so he can unify with Warrington. It doesn’t matter how much you sugar-coat it.
“People are trying to make out like it’s an exciting fight. How can it be an exciting fight, they both can’t crack an egg? It’s going to be like watching a high-pace pillow fight. Between them, they have knocked out 10 people. What are the facts? Xu Can has never really boxed anyone, he’s had two or three knockouts, and Warrington has had seven knockouts. They are the facts. It’s not like I’m chatting complete shit. Who wants to watch someone get in the ring and throw 10,000 punches in a fight and neither of them come out with even a bruise? There won’t be a mark on them,” Galahad said with a mischievous laugh.
Galahad’s faith remains unwavering. Defeat has not caused a crisis of confidence. The 30-year-old is no stranger to adversity. At the age of four, Galahad moved from Doha to Toxteth where he lived with his parents and eight siblings in a three-bedroom flat above a convenience shop.
Seven years later he moved to Sheffield. Trouble soon followed and Galahad aspired to be a gangster or “the baddest man on the planet”.
Having witnessed two of his brothers become incarcerated he is acutely aware of where the path not taken would have led. Boxing and Brendan Ingle were his salvation.
Whenever Galahad receives the opportunity to rematch Warrington, he is going to leave nothing to chance. He will take his destiny in his own hands.
“When I fight [Warrington] again, you saw how [Tyson] Fury gave [Deontay] Wilder that work, I’m telling ya’ it’ll be worse than that,” Galahad said with conviction. “I beat him the first time and I didn’t get the decision, this time it isn’t going 12 rounds. I don’t care what he thinks. I don’t care if he thinks he’s tough enough, or that he’s got a great chin, when he is getting absolutely battered from pillar to post, someone is going to be chucking in the towel and that’s his dad! Take my word for it because when it happens, I’m gonna say, ‘I told you so’.”