By Noah Abrahams
After beating Quaise Khademi to become the European super-flyweight WBO and IBF champion on the 27th February, Ijaz Ahmed was in high spirits as he returned to the gym before a chance to re-group over Ramadan.
Claiming the belts after a majority decision at London’s Copper Box Arena, the Birmingham-based athlete described the achievement as “surreal.”
“It’s amazing. The hard work has paid off,” the 27-year-old exclaimed.
Physically without his belts due to Covid-19, Ahmed, whose victory over a previously undefeated Khademi was his eighth, explained that the triumph hasn’t yet sunk in.
“Because I haven’t got the belts on me, I haven’t got the full feeling yet,” he said.
“Until you are holding the belts, it’s a different feeling. When they arrive and I can take pictures with people, it will feel a lot better.”
The score cards against Khademi were announced as 95-96, 95-95, 94-96 in favour of Ahmed after a technical ten rounds of boxing.
Winning as the underdog, the Paul Mann prodigy was confident that he had come out on top in the capital.“If you watch the video right at the end, I knew I’d won,” he said.
“I thought there would have been a bit more of a gap and when I heard the draw decision, I questioned what the judge was watching. Put it this way, none of the judges gave it to Quaise.
“The referee was great. It was a clean fight and so there wasn’t much of him getting in the way or stopping anything.
“It was a great performance by me and I really enjoyed it. It was a massive experience being on the TV for the first time too.
“I think it was the best performance of my career. Everyone that watched it told me that I’d come a long way and that I’d grown.
“I have to give praise to the team. I want to thank Paul Mann, Errol Johnson, Matt Sturgess and Ben Wilkes. All these guys put in the hard work. We got the game plan right and we got the job done.”
A top of the bill bout, Ahmed vs Khademi was never supposed to be the headliner. With Jamel Herring’s WBO super-featherweight title defence against Carl Frampton called off due to a Frampton hand injury and Anthony Cacace’s British super-featherweight title defence against Lyon Woodstock suspended courtsey of a failed Covid-19 test, Ahmed was thrown into the limelight.With a re-match against Khademi a very real possibility, the European champion explained that his options are open.
“I was buzzing to be back in the ring,” he said.
“I was jumping for joy when the Covid test upon arrival [at the Copper Box] was all clear.
“I wouldn’t mind a re-match with Khademi, but everything has to be right.
“With Ramadan coming up, I don’t want to say anything. We’re not going to put pen to paper yet.
“Once Ramadan is over and I’m back in the gym, we’ll weigh up our options and we’ll see what the next step is.“If the best option is a rematch with Quaise, then why not. It’s management’s job to figure out what the best steps are for me.
“I’m not ruling out anything now.
“A fight with Sunny Edwards [British super-flyweight champion] may also happen in the future.”
Ahmed is quickly moving up the rankings. Pleased with the progress he is making, ‘Jazzy’ expressed the joy he feels when boxing at a top level.
“I’ve always enjoyed coming into the gym because it’s a family environment,” said Ahmed.
“I’m always training hard. The management told me to have a week off [after the Khademi fight], but I personally would have come back into the gym the day after if I could have.
“Hopefully, for the next fight when I’m defending the title, there will be fans and a different vibe.”
Keen to learn from his most recent contest, Ahmed strives for greatness as he sets his eyes on becoming world champion.
“I learnt a lot from the experience with Quaise,” he said.
“Looking back on the fight and videos, there are a lot of points for and against the performance.
“It’s just about staying in the gym and perfecting my style. I will keep growing as a fighter and as a person.
“I’m in this business for the long run and I want to be world champion one day. With the will of Allah, my full intentions are to put in the hard work and hopefully one day, have the world title belt on my shoulder.”
A well-respected trainer, Paul Mann has been involved in professional boxing for over a decade. Guiding Ahmed to European titles last month, BCB Promotions’ Head Trainer praised his young charge.
“Ijaz deserves a lot of credit for the win against Khademi. If it were not for his dedication and belief, then it wouldn’t have been possible,” Mann said.
“He put the work and effort in. Khadimi is a very talented boxer, but Ijaz was a big underdog and a lot of people didn’t believe in us.
“We are very grateful to Queensberry Promotions, Frank Warren and BT Sport. The whole show was going to be cancelled, but after discussions, it went ahead and it was a great top-of-the-bill fight.
“What the promoters have done throughout Covid has been amazing. We ourselves as BCB put on a lot of shows in a year, but without the TV promoters putting the shows on, boxing would be null and void.
“We are very grateful to all of the promoters. If it wasn’t a top of the bill fight against Khademi, then Ijaz might not have got the credit that he deserves. It was a great night of boxing.
“Ijaz has been in the camp since last April because of Covid and for both boxers to perform the way they did, I take my hat off to both of them. Most boxers would have given up and it takes a special person to carry on.”
Looking to the future, Mann is taking one step at a time as Ahmed recovers from a grueling year of relentless training through a global pandemic.
“When boxers call each other out, it’s a business,” he said.“We’ll do whatever is beneficial to the team and of course to Ijaz himself.
“I’ve told him to just enjoy the next few weeks after a long and demanding camp.
“There are options [for future fights], but we’ll talk about them when they present themselves.”
By Noah Abrahams