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Rob McCracken will corner Olympic champ Galal Yafai for his pro debut

Galal Yafai
Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
Galal Yafai has been sparring IBF belt-holder Sunny Edwards, but both expect to fight in the not too distant future. John Dennen reports

OLYMPIC gold medallist Galal Yafai will be in unfamiliar territory on Sunday (February 27). He goes into his first scheduled 10-rounder on his pro debut. But he will have a familiar face in his corner. Rob McCracken will be his trainer.

Yafai well knows McCracken, also the GB performance director, from their years together on the Olympic squad. “The main thing is you’ve got to trust that person and Rob is someone I trust. I know he’s a great coach as well, obviously. You look at his background, he’s trained the likes of Anthony Joshua, Carl Froch,” Galal told Boxing News. “He’s the perfect fit for me and hopefully I can show you what we’ve been working on.

“It got me to the Olympic final, to Olympic gold, so it’s done me wonders boxing up there, so hopefully long may it continue.”

Another well known figure who’s been helping Yafai is a potential future rival, Sunny Edwards, the holder of the IBF flyweight belt. They had around eight, long sparring sessions ahead of Galal’s first pro fight.

“Grant Smith’s gym is a literally a five minute walk from where we live,” Yafai said. “It’s great sparring for me, great sparring for him as well.

“It was good sparring, brilliant sparring, I think we both gained a lot from it. It was good for me to gauge where I’m at. He’s a world champion. He’s an IBF world champion who’s done numerous 12 rounders. It just showed where I’m at. I’m happy to say I’m in a good place.”

“It was an eye opener for me. It’s put me in a good position,” he added. “We boxed in the 2015 ABAs [the England Boxing Elite amateur championships]. He beat me on a split decision. It’s 1-0 Sunny Edwards.”

They’ve been preparing together even though they do expect eventually to box one another as professionals. Yafai however doesn’t have a personal rivalry with Edwards. “I don’t have a personal grudge with no one. I just want to box and live my life peacefully,” he said. “I just want to chill and enjoy my career and live my life… I’m too nice and too small as well.”

“We were saying in the gym before sparring, ‘We’re definitely going to fight in a few years.’ We’re definitely going fight in a few years. It wasn’t anything to be shy about or hide,” he continued. “But we’ll get the work in now and we’ll prepare for that in a few years.

“Only me, Sunny, my trainer and his trainer and maybe a few others from his gym will know. But he might have the recording in the gym. There may be a recording. Maybe Sunny will let it out one day…”

Galal expects to be busy this year, having five fights in total and moving on to 12 rounders before the end of 2022. That means he could be fighting for the British or European championship in the coming months.

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai is celebrated on returning from the Olympic Games. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

“In my fourth or fifth fight I think I should probably be fighting 12 rounders. Hopefully I can do them!” he said. “I don’t think of titles myself. I just like to think of progression, me getting better. I think it’s inevitable for me to be fighting for titles and winning titles. If I’m good enough I’ll get them titles. But the only titles in my mind are world titles. That’s the only thing I’m thinking about.”

Galal added, “I could probably mix it with the world champions in the next two or three fights. It’s not me being deluded. But it’s another thing winning them and looking good as well. Do I think I can mix it with them? Yeah. Can I beat them now? I don’t know yet, we’ll have to see.

“They’re all great fighters, you’ve got ‘Rey’ [Julio Cesar] Martinez, with the WBC, he’s gone up now to fight Chocolatito [Roman Gonzalez]. I’m sure he’ll be back down soon. You’ve got Sunny Edwards which is the most glamorous fight – an all British showdown, a bit of history, you’ve got [Junto] Nakatani, who’s a great Japanese fighter, he’s probably a nightmare as well. Then you’ve got [Artem] Dalakian who’s a good fighter.

“I don’t really care who I fight as long as I win a world title, that’s all that matters.”

His brother is also thinking about his return to world level. Kal Yafai, the former holder of the WBA super-flyweight belt, has had time out of the sport after losing to Roman Gonzalez. But he will be back in action in April and moving up in weight.

“Back, hungrier than ever, bigger, stronger, fitter, technically better,” Kal told Boxing News. “So I’ll move up. I’ve been working away behind the scenes. I had a year away from boxing. I’ve been away training hard, working on things, just working on being a better fighter and I’m sure that will show when I’m back in April.

“I just want the biggest fights. Get back in there, blow off some cobwebs and then get the biggest fights possible afterwards.”

Gamal Yafai, the former European champion, also expects to return to action, potentially in May. They’re all excited to have their younger brother Galal joining them in the pros. “He’s been looking good in training. We expect him to do big things as a pro as well, just like as an amateur,” Gamal said of the Olympic champ. “I had a tiny break, two months, then back training. I’m sound, I’m ready to go. April, May time I’d like to, just wait and see. I just want to get back in there now.”

The dream is for all three brothers to fight on the same bill. “It would be a big thing for us. It would be a big thing for British boxing as well,” Kal said. “I leave all that to Eddie [Hearn, their promoter] and the team. Eddie’s delivered in everything that I’ve needed to date. I’m sure he will continue to do so.”

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