Hamzah Sheeraz: Remember the name.
This young British boxer has spent the past two weeks in the UAE as he begins his training for a tilt at his first major belt — the WBO international super-welterweight title — at the Real Boxing Only Gym in Dubai.
Hamzah has soared through the rankings in the sport and this fearsome orthodox fighter who stands 6ft 3ins tall now has another weapon in his armoury as famed coach Ricky Funez has joined his team.
Taking time out from his tough training regime, Hamzah explained the lure of coming to the UAE to get in shape.
“This is my coach Ricky’s first time out here but I have been coming here since I was about 10 years old,” Hamzah, 22, told Gulf News in a chat at the Real Boxing Only Gym in the Al Quoz area of Dubai. “I have always been here on holidays but since I turned pro I have been coming over for training at facilities such as Real Boxing Only. Before it was all fun in a place I love but not it is getting serious as I am preparing for my biggest fight so far. We brought Ricky out for the first time so he can get me in shape for the main training camp in LA.”
Hamzah was born in Slough and first pulled on his gloves at the age of eight when his uncle took him to a local gym. He quickly showed an extraordinary talent and became a three-time finalist at the UK national junior championships.
He turned professional in 2017 and now boasts a perfect 13-0 record, claiming the WBO European junior-middleweight title in 2019 before defending it three times, most recently with a TKO against Spain’s Ezequiel Gurria.
Now he is being put through a gruelling regime in the Dubai heat to get down to fighting weight for his title bout in the UK in November.
“I know how hot it can get out here but I think I maybe underestimated just how hot it is at this time of year,” Hamzah says with a smile. “Even over here I train with a sweat top on and each session I am losing five or six pounds. It’s crazy how much you can lose in weight here. It isn’t easy because you are basically training in a sauna with the humidity as well as the heat.
“It is tough but it is worth it because in terms of weight it is helping a lot. Also Ricky, who has trained with some of the top fighters, knows how to get you down to weight safely.”
Funez has worked with champions such as Shane Mosley, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Ryan Garcia and Diego Carrales, and is now on board to take Hamzah to the next level with some tough love.
“Our first training camp was very successful,” said Funez. “He came to America after a surgery and he was very heavy. So we went to work. The first three weeks were torture for him. He hated it, but I love it, because I see the results that come out in the end. A lot of fighters don’t see the end result, but Hamzah’s dedication is amazing.”
Despite his successes, Hamzah admitted he became a bit disillusioned with boxing after he was overlooked for the Team England Commonwealth Games squad five years ago. But just like in the ring, he fought his way back.
“I stopped amateur boxing when I was 17 because I was meant to get picked for the Games but I didn’t,” he explains. “I had to step back and take a break from it. I needed to earn some money so I did an electrical apprenticeship for a while. But then I realised it was not for me and what I was missing so I got back into boxing. I got back in the gym and around four weeks later I got the opportunity to turn pro and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.”
With a smile back on his face, Hamzah explains how the learning curve of getting the right mentorship and guidance is key — and the actual contests are the simple part.
“The journey has been great,” he says. “To be honest, the fights are the easy bit, the hardest part has been getting a solid team behind you. Guys you trust. Boxing is the easy part as that is down to me. I am in control, I know what I am doing.
“I have been a pro for four years now and it has been a great trip. It has been educational and have learnt a lot. I have learnt more about how people operate outside the ring than what I have learnt inside. But these guys I have make me wiser and I am enjoying it.”
Along with Funez, Hamzah has Taz Khan as his manager and he also has his father Kamran in his corner, and the close bond between all four is clear to see.
“We are building something — a bond — unlike anything else,” adds Funez. “I wasn’t convinced at first about coming on-board, but after we met, it brought me back to life. I could see this genuine young kid, but very mature with it. Taz plays his role, Hamzah’s dad plays his part and I have my part. The chemistry I have with Hamzah is great. I don’t like joking around with my fighters because you need that respect. There is a time to relax and joke around, but there has to be limit. There is a time to switch into serious mode when you train and that is no joke.
“I have coached a few good names but I have worked with many great fighters. In Hamzah, he impresses me so much. What impresses me most is his power. He is also a good-looking guy and, in boxing, you need that if you want to be a face of boxing. It is hard to make money in boxing but Hamzah is going places.”
As for the future, Hamzah has another desire, to bring a title fight to Dubai — his home away from home.
“I would love to fight out here. As I said, I have been coming here on and off for many years now,” he says. “I have seen this place grow and I would also love to grow my name and expand my fan base here with a big fight.”
Hamzah Sheeraz: Remember the name.
Weights: super-welterweight, light-middleweight
Height: 6ft 3ins
Born: May 25 1999
Place of birth: Slough, England
Total fights: 13
Wins by KO: 9