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Monday, April 22, 2024

The rise of British Asians in Boxing

Asian boxers continue to make waves in and out of the ring as the first British-Pakistani promoter lines up seven fight nights for 2024.

Israar ‘Izzy’ Asif, 41 from Sheffield tells the Asian Standard of his love for sports having opened the batting with England’s Joe Root as well delivering an uppercut to World Heavyweight Champion Tyson Fury in his younger days. “He battered me for three rounds after” say’s the father of two with a laugh as he recounts his most famous sparring session.

Now the former boxer, league cricketer and Sheffield United fan has a bigger claim to fame as the first British-Pakistani boxing promoter. His GBM Sports promotion has signed a deal with the Talk Sport YouTube channel, to show all the promotion’s fights. His rise coincides with that of a stream of British Asian boxers who are becoming household names inside the ring.

One sign of just how high their stock is at present, came just a week ago when Dalton Smith, retained his super lightweight championship and in taking to the mic on winning said, “I don’t call many names out but I’ve got one name. Adam Azim where you at”?

The fact that Smith singled out Azim is significant. Azim took little time to respond to his rival’s challenge saying “Adam Azim vs Dalton Smith will happen you don’t need to be worried about that.”

Azim is diagnosed with ADHD calling it his boxing superpower and without which he wouldn’t have stepped into a ring. His brother Hassan ‘Hitman’ Azim has carved out his own reputation as a heavy puncher following on from his bronze medal at the 2018 Olympics in Brazil.

Despite the highs, Izzy says that Tyson Fury VS Alexander Usyk on 18 May remains the fight to look forward to in 2024, but is excited about Azim.

For him however, Hamzah Sheeraz is the next big thing as he tells the Asian Standard, “he has momentum” as the key reason behind his optimism.

Perhaps it’s the fact that Sheeraz shares a similar cultural background with Asif, both from families hailing from the Kahuta-Tehsil region of Rawalpindi, Pakistan.


Yet the 24 year old fighter’s record does support the point being made by Asif. After 19 fights and 15 victories by knockout, it is not hard to see why a promoter like Asif would wax lyrical about Sheeraz, perhaps the type of fighter he envisages for his own growing stable.

“Wake up world I’m coming for all of you”, were the words of Adam Clarke the Sky Sports commentator following Sheeraz’s demolition of Liam Williams in just one round, in February  2024.

The interview with the press pack also elicited comments such as “This guy is intellectually sound, speaks professionally, locks himself up and trains hard, Eubank Junior vs Hamzah is a great British fight! let’s have it!” That is a fight that is within reach and something Sheeraz himself believes he’s ready for it calling himself the best 160 pound fighter in the world.

Sheeraz’s success is heavily based on his jab which promoter Eddie Hearns has compared to Tommy Hitman Hearns a famous middleweight from the 1980s, considered by many to be one of the best boxers ever.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2024 Sheeraz has made no secret of where his ambitions are saying during a recent Umrah pilgrimage to Makkah, “Inshallah, I’ll be a world champion by the end of this year.

“This is the year of world titles. This is the year where Hamzah Sheeraz becomes a household name.”

Internet forums are fully a-tune to the rise of British-Pakistani boxers. Alongside the names of Azim and Sheeraz is Shabaz ‘Maverick’ Masood, a Stoke based fighter with an undefeated record in professional boxing of 11-0 and the first British Pakistani to headline a Matchroom Show since Amir Khan.

Masood credits the Bolton fighter and former champion as a “big inspiration” for him with many saying that the emergence of British Pakistani fighters might well be Khan’s greatest legacy.

It’s a view Asif shares and he hopes to have his own world champion one day and cites Sheffield fighters Shakiel Thompson and Faraqat ‘Frak’ Ali, the first boxer he signed up and who boasts a record of nine fights undefeated.

Asif’s GBM promotions now has 19 paid staff something the self-made businessman is proud of. The latest high-profile coup is Sky Sports man Adam Smith as director of broadcasting.


But despite his high ambitions he is keen to emphasise that he is his own man and does not want to be compared with boxing’s big wig promoters. Yet as he says his promotion is already in the top five in the Country and set to get bigger.

“I’m a boxing man and will always be a boxing man, so you never know how big things might get.”

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