ONCE he had scooped the British bantamweight title last September, Ukashir Farooq made it his mission to win it outright and to achieve this goal as soon as possible.
This led to a couple of defences within the next seven months as well as a third one set for Saturday (August 17) at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Glasgow. Opposing Farooq this time will be Duane Winters, the Southern Arena super-bantamweight champion, and Farooq knows one more victory will give him the British belt for keeps.
A pro since 2015, Farooq, 12-0 (5), is getting better as he matures and is currently on a rich vein of form, with five of his last six fights ending inside the distance. In 2018, he won the British title when dropping Jamie Wilson three times and finishing their fight inside 73 seconds, and then followed this with a dominant first defence against Iain Butcher in a fight that saw Farooq go 12 rounds for the first time. This year he successfully defended the belt against Kyle Williams, winning via fifth-round stoppage, showing once again an ability to both box and punch, essential for any young fighter aspiring to one day progress beyond domestic level.
Winters, meanwhile, lifted the Southern Area super-bantamweight crown in July 2018 with a narrow decision win over Martin Hillman. The pair were separated by just a point on referee Martin Williams’ scorecard that night, yet Winters, 11-1 (1), would be far more decisive in his first defence, stopping Tom McGinley in the 10th round due to a cut.
That’s the sole inside schedule win Winters has registered as a pro and the lack of others, or indeed a proper knockout, raises question marks about his punch power. Then again, it could be argued the upside to the ‘Gasman’s tendency to go the distance is that he has developed a knack for shading competitive rounds and boasts quite the engine as a result. It’s this engine, in fact, that has helped the Bristolian edge more than one close fight in his five-year pro career and will be something he will look to implement against Farooq on Saturday night.
Farooq, after all, is eight years Winters’ junior at 23 and very much learning on the job. He is talented and full of confidence, but his ceiling has still to be determined and, until they have tried and failed, bantamweights up and down the country will remain hopeful of revealing he is more style than substance. Basically, if there’s a good time to fight the skilful Glaswegian, it’s probably now.
That said, Farooq, in terms of talent and momentum, seems a level or two above Winters at this stage and should, for this reason, be backed to retain his title either on points or by late stoppage.
Not only that, the ease with which he has recently been dominating challengers suggests the British champion has what it takes to one day win bigger and better titles – that is, after securing his current belt for good.
The Verdict The coveted Lonsdale Belt will be Farooq’s for keeps if he can get past Winters. A move up to a higher level could follow that.