Of course, they’re all important. It’s an eliminator so obviously it’ll push me right up there and hopefully it’ll bring me the champion to fight here.
Is the champion Kohei Kono? Have you watched much of him?
I watched that fight against [Koki] Kameda in Chicago. I watched that the night before my last fight. He’s very tough, he likes to work at a good pace. But then again I feel I’ve got all the tools to beat him. Fights like Saturday’s, this gives me good experience. A step up really.
He seems very game. He seems very jumpy. He’s a bit in and out. He seems like he’ll be a bit awkward early on. But I’ve seen that he fades in fights and he fades after four or five rounds. I don’t think that bodes well for him.
He doesn’t have that many stoppages, do you feel you’ll have the edge in power?
I can see that but then again I know I’ve got more power than a lot of super-flyweights as well. I know that’s one of my advantages. But he does look like as he’s maturing, he’s getting a few stoppages. I think he’s stopped his last four out of five [wins]. I don’t think he stopped anyone before then. He’s starting to put them together a bit. But when he stepped up, and he stepped up against [Carlos] Cuadras, who’s the WBC champion, I know he’s a different level, after the first round it kind of went downhill for him and he was stopped in five, although he did come back and stop someone who was 16-0, 13 knockouts [Jose Perez]. But I don’t know how he built that record because he was pretty rubbish to be fair.
It sounds like you’ve watched a lot of his fights.
I’ve looked at his fights, looked at his record. We have one common opponent. He boxed the guy that I boxed in Leeds in September [Aron Juarez]. He boxed him about two years ago. He beat him on a majority decision where I put him away in a round. But it’s different, styles make fights and he does seem like an improved fighter. I just feel like I should too much for him in every department.
Do you feel under pressure?
I’m always relaxed but I do know I’ve got to do a job on this kid. If I don’t then it throws everything out the window. I should be beating these kind of kids, I should be beating them well. If I really struggled with him, or got beat or drew with him… I want to be a world champion and a big name in this sport, I don’t think that would be possible if I can’t beat kids like this. That’s a bit of the pressure. Everyone expects you to beat these kind of kids. The casual boxing fan or anyone in boxing, will say Yafai should knock him out. I think everyone expects me to stop him. Even all the bookies expect me to stop him. But obviously it’s boxing, anything can happen. There’s certainly pressure. I kind of take that pressure into my stride. I’m confident. Confident in my ability and I’m confident in all the training I’ve done.
Do you feel like you could be fighting for the world title by the end of 2016?
Yes, if I can do that it would be brilliant. I need to be fighting for a world title if it’s not this year, it’s got to be very, very early next year.
Would you mind going over to Japan?
Obviously I’d prefer it to be at home. The only way I could see me going to Japan was if I got a load of money that I couldn’t turn down. It wouldn’t be bad. I’ll see what happens but I’ve got to get this guy out the way first and do a job on him so all eyes on this kid on Saturday.
I know that this kid could be a bit awkward early on. After three or four rounds I’ll take over. That’s if I don’t catch him early and put him away early. I’ll be looking to take my time and use my boxing early on.
How pleased were you with your performance against Jason Cunningham [pictured above] last time out?
It was good. I had a bit of fun in that to be fair. It wasn’t a gruelling 12 rounds, never took much out of me. To be honest I was surprised he stayed in there for so long. I actually thought his corner would pull him out or the ref would just say I’ve had enough of watching this now. But he stuck in there. He was very negative. But I could see straight away, as soon as I caught him clean it was like ‘I don’t want to get hit by that again’ and he kind of went into his shell and tried to survive and he done well doing that.
It’s a bit of everything, timing, distance, moving my feet in and out. Just controlling the distance I think was the main thing, just getting out the way that little bit, just to make him miss and being in a position to counter him. I think everyone thinks that I’m just going to go in there and try to push someone back but I can box. I’ve got very long arms for a small guy.
I’ve had two 12-rounders now. They’ve both done me really well. I think they’ve prepared me well for upcoming fights like Saturday.
How satisfying was it to win the British title?
It was good. It was nice to win it. Another title in the bag, it’s a prestigious title as well so I was really happy to win that.
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