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Superfit Galal Yafai ready to go distance on 10-round pro debut after Team GB star’s gold medal heroics at Tokyo 2020

, Superfit Galal Yafai ready to go distance on 10-round pro debut after Team GB star’s gold medal heroics at Tokyo 2020

GOLDEN boy Galal Yafai booked a brutal debut on Sunday — after being Team GB’s shock Olympic star.

The Birmingham fighter, 29, was crowned flyweight champ in Tokyo last summer to cap a Cinderella story, having worked in a Land Rover factory.

Yafai will make his professional debut on Sunday evening

Almost all Yafai’s amateur bouts — taking in two Olympic Games — were scheduled for three rounds and a pro bow is usually an easy four or six.

But the superfit youngest of three boxing brothers is boldly launching himself into a ten-round clash against Carlos Bautista at London’s O2 as he attacks the 8st division.

Ahead of facing the Mexican, he grinned: “I was sound with the idea. I am pretty fit and think I can do the ten rounds.

“Hopefully it doesn’t go the full ten but I’m sure I’ll cope if it does. I don’t want to go out all guns blazing in the first few rounds and blow a gasket.

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“There is a lot of expectation on myself but the Olympic gold is in my past now.”

Leaping in at the deep end is hopefully the springboard Yafai needs to land a world title inside just ten fights.

But he has seen enough of boxing’s dark side — in his own amateur  struggles and the careers of brothers Gamal and Kal — to know it will not be easy.

He said: “I believe I am good enough to be a world champion, 100 per cent. But it doesn’t mean it is going to happen.

“There are always ups and downs in boxing. I’ve seen first and second hand with my brothers.

“So I will just try to work hard and see what happens.”

Sections of the O2 roof were blown off by Storm Eunice but repairs have been a success and Sunday’s show is on.

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Yafai said: “I’m used to fighting in empty arenas in places like Bulgaria and Hungary, being bored all week in the hotel, so all this is a nice change.

“This is a lot more fun, we’ve been put up in a nice hotel and I am just ready to go now.”

Hackney’s WBO cruiserweight champ Lawrence Okolie, 29, headlines against Michal Cieslak.

And he insists he did not panic when the venue’s roof blew off.

Ahead of his fight with Polish slugger Cieslak, 32, Okolie said: “I was actually quite calm about it all.

He will begin his pro journey in a 10-round contest at the 02

“I thought the worst-case scenario would be the fight getting relocated and maybe it might be delayed.

“But I never try to let anything get to me — I like to take everything as it comes.”

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Meanwhile, Okolie still cannot help laughing when anyone calls him a world champion.

He claimed the cruiserweight crown last March and is now the proud owner of a faultless 17-0 start to his career.

His story is even more surreal as he was bullied over his obesity as a child and — just ten years ago — worked in a McDonald’s and considered a career in social services.

The inspirational turnaround from flipping burgers to headlining at the O2 still has him smiling.

He explained: “It is starting to feel a bit more normal but I do still laugh when someone calls me ‘the world champion’.

“I always felt I was meant to do something — but I did not know what that was. I was considering becoming a manager at McDonald’s and because my mum is involved in social work, that was also something that I was looking at.”

The 14st 4lb ace is itching to unify against any of the three other champs with WBC, IBF and WBA belts.

But he has found it a frustrating struggle and so could leap up to the heavyweights sooner than expected.

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He warned: “Every­one knows I want to unify the division and, ideally, go for undisputed with all four belts.

“But if these other champions avoid me, I’ll move up and get some real dance partners.”



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