Since before he was a teenager a strong work ethic has been instilled into Shabaz Masoud.
His recollections take him to around the age of 10 or 11. The normality of school life through the week but on a weekend, there would be a 6am start where hard work was met with a belief that he would be a champion one day. And like so many he owes the fruits of his labour to his parents, particularly to his father – a former amateur boxer turned taxi driver.
“Do you know what, credit to my dad because he used to work a full night shift on the taxis at the weekends and he’d come home 4-5 in the morning, and he’d wake me up and we’d go straight to the gym and train. I feel like I’ve always had a good work ethic because of my dad because I’ve always been used to that routine of graft.”
The familiarity of graft as well as craft has seen him push harder than even in preparations for his next fight.
“I am flying right now fitness wise. I’ve never trained this hard, and I’ve never been this fit. I’m just excited to put on a show.”
Masoud had been speaking to Boxing Social just under two weeks away from the biggest fight of his career to date. The northeast, Rainton Meadows Arena, Houghton-Le-Spring to be precise will stage a fight between the unbeaten (8-0, 2 KOs) super-bantamweight from Stoke against Diego Alberto Ruiz. The Argentinian’s name may trigger a few memories for boxing fans. In 2019 the 27-year-old faced Michael Conlan at Falls Park, Belfast. An unforgettable night that should have given the Olympic medallist revenge over 2016 rival Vladimir Nikitin but still sent the punters home with a 9th round stoppage over Ruiz, who replaced Nikitin as Conlan’s opponent.
Ruiz has had two wins since, and Argentinian boxing experts will be able to tell you whether they have been credible. For Masoud though there is an excitement of going up against a man that took Conlan nine rounds in his 12th fight.
“I’m boxing him in my ninth fight,” Masoud points out.
“He’s won 20, he’s got 3 losses, but he’s got 12 knockouts so he’s doing something right. He’s a good fighter but this is why I wanted to fight someone like him because I want to step up, I want to show my own level. I feel like I’m the better fighter.”
Masoud then almost had to remind himself of something and said, “I feel like on the night I just need to follow the plan and I’ll show my level.”
Masoud, trained by Ben Davison, isn’t looking at Conlan’s efforts and wanting a measuring contest. If allowed to then Ruiz will press forward and make it an uncomfortable night but there is a tone of temptation that sounds as if Masoud is keen to face such a problem head on. An opportunity to allow him to deliver on the expectation from many who see him as a future star of British boxing. It’s not long though before the excitement is countered by professionalism.
“Forget trying to make a statement, forget the crowd, forget everything, it’s man against man. Get in there and beat him. Regardless of if it goes 10 rounds and I box his head off or regardless of if I take him out, my job is to get in there and get the job done and that’s what I’m going to do.”
Masoud admits to one disappointing aspect involving the fight against Ruiz.
“This fight should have been for a title but a few things happening behind the scenes, so it didn’t go through. Michael Conlan fought him for a belt, other people have fought him for a belt, he’s a good fighter and it should have been for a title however it wasn’t. Going to get this fight out the way, focus on this for now and next year it’s 100% strap season. I’m coming for belts.”
As with boxing nowadays there are a plethora of belts for a fighter to get the opportunity to challenge for. A sanctioning body trinket here, there, everywhere can open doors but the 122lbs domestic scene is one that Masoud will hopefully become involved in. Top dog is British, Commonwealth and European champion Jason Cunningham. Then we have the men he’s defeated recently Gamal Yafai and Brad Foster before a host of rising stars looking to get their shot such as Marc Leach, Chris Bourke, Jack Bateson, Qais Ashfaq and Hopey Price to name but five.
“There’s some good names there,” Masoud says and then tells Boxing Social, “I’ve called out names before, but I’ve stopped doing that because no-one else calls my name. I just let the management [MTK] do their thing and I’ll be honest I’ll fight anyone. I’ve always been like that. Whatever my team decide I’m with it.”
Masoud is looking to grow himself into a big, imposing super-bantamweight that will eventually fill out to featherweight and from there the dreams and aspirations are big.
“My aim is one day to be a multi-weight world champion. One fight at a time as they say. I’ve always believed I’ll be a world champion one day and that it’s only a matter of time. I’ve always had that mentality. I always believe in the cream rises to the top.”