Galal Yafai remained in the amateur ranks long enough to pursue his dream of capturing a Gold medal.
He doesn’t plan on wasting any time now that he has officially arrived on the pro stage.
One of the standouts from the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Yafai has formally entered a promotional pact with Matchroom Boxing. The deal was announced Thursday along with confirmation that the 29-year-old from Birmingham, England will make his pro debut on the already announced February 27 DAZN show from The O2 in London.
Yafai’s opponent has yet to be revealed, though he will straight into a ten-round contest for his first fight.
"The goal now is to win a World Title," said Yafai. "I know there’s not many who have won Olympic Gold and then a World Title so hopefully I can add my name to that list. There’s some great current World Champions out there at the minute, I’m not going to call out any names but my time will come - I have set my sights on being at the very top.
"I’ve boxed all over the World with Team GB, it’s made me into a better fighter no doubt. I’ve fought and sparred with many styles which will stand me in good stead in the pro game. Eyes will be on me as a pro but I thrive on the pressure and it’s a really exciting time to be entering this new chapter of my career.”
Yafai hails from a boxing family as the younger brother of former WBA junior bantamweight titlist Kal Yafai (26-1, 15KOs) and current junior featherweight fringe contender Gamal Yafai (18-2, 10KOs). The youngest of the Yafai brothers had the opportunity to turn pro following his stint in the 2016 Rio Olympics, though the feeling of returning home empty handed delayed that journey.
The one-year postponement that came with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics added to the temptation of abandoning his Gold medal quest, though patience proved be a virtue.
Yafai stuck it out, going on to become the first male British boxer since James DeGale to win five Olympic fights. He did so amidst a loaded flyweight field, including a quarterfinal round win over Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia. Subsequent wins over Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov and Philippines’ Carlos Paalam saw Yafai claim Gold, anchoring a Great Britain team that went 25-9 in Olympic competition along with six medals.
"I remember standing on the podium with the National Anthem playing with the medal around my neck, it was a surreal moment,” recalled Yafai. “I enjoyed my time in Tokyo and now I’m ready for the next step. Matchroom are the biggest promotional company in the world.
“I’ve known Eddie for years obviously with all the shows with my brothers so it was the best fit for me to become a World Champion."
Signing with Matchroom was a no-brainer for Yafai. In addition to the family ties, Yafai now joins the leading U.K. promotional outfit who signed the last two male boxers to capture Olympic Gold—former two-time unified heavyweight titlist Anthony Joshua (24-2, 22KOs) and former title challenger Luke Campbell (20-4, 16KOs).
“I’m over the moon to secure the signature of Olympic Gold Medallist Galal Yafai and we welcome him with open arms to the Matchroom Boxing and DAZN team,” stated Eddie Hearn, chairman of Matchroom Sport. “Galal was the standout British fighter at the Games and we have a long-standing relationship with his brothers, so it was personally very important to me to get this done.
“Galal is going to do things very differently, for his professional debut at The O2 we are looking for him to challenge for his first professional title and from there move quickly to a World Title which we expect him to win across multiple divisions. This young man is an exceptional talent and you are going to be able to watch him on the biggest shows all over the world live on DAZN.”
Yafai’s placement on the February 27 show comes in supporting capacity to the already announced WBO cruiserweight title fight between defending champ Lawrence Okolie (17-0, 14KOs)—who represented Great Britain in 2016 Rio—and Poland’s Michal Cieslak (21-1, 15KOs).
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox
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