The Commonwealth Games gold medal is a target in itself, but Aqeel Ahmed also hopes it will be the battering ram needed to break into the Great Britain set-up and earn him a shot at Olympic glory.
“That’s everyone’s dream, if you want to take sport seriously, that should be your dream,” said the 25-year-old, Motherwell boxer.
“I think it should have happened sooner – I’ve won the British three years running and I’ve won golds at ten of my last 11 tournaments. So it’s a bit suspicious, to say the least. All I’ll say is that there’s been boys put on GB for less than I’ve done. I don’t know what will get me on because I’ve been trying for three years but I’d like to think a Commonwealth gold would do it.”
Named on the Team Scotland boxing team for April’s Games, in Gold Coast, Australia, it will be Ahmed’s second attempt at gaining the title, after he came up short in Glasgow, in 2014. This time he will be better prepared, though.
Having a break from college to concentrate on reaching the Games in peak condition, he says he is more experienced and knows what to expect.
“I’m delighted to be a part of the team again and going to my second Commonwealth Games. In Glasgow, I couldn’t believe that I was fighting in the Commonwealth Games. Whereas now, my mindset is a bit different – I have higher expectations now. Back then, I was the lower tier of the medal prospects whereas this time I’m the top tier and I’m probably one of the favourites to get a medal. There’s a bit of expectation on me. I feel a bit of pressure. I’ll just wait and see what the draw’s like when that comes out but I’ll be ready for anything.”
In Glasgow, he was knocked down in the quarter-finals and that disappointment left him with unfinished business. So, while others from that team have turned pro, Ahmed learned from mistakes and has channelled his efforts into addressing them in Australia.
“That’s definitely driven me on, 100 per cent. I stayed amateur because I wanted another go at the Games. I felt that the last time, although I was up against a good opponent, I should have been amongst the medals. I feel like I didn’t have the right mindset – I was just happy to be there. That had been my big dream but with this one, I know that I belong there and that I should be medalling, that’s my target.”
Seeing Charlie Flynn and Josh Taylor become household names and seeing them move into the professional ranks and edge towards a world title fight has simply given him added incentive to emulate their Commonwealth success.
“In Glasgow, I was a little jealous of them, not in a bad way but in the sense of that’s what I wanted,” said the guy who took up boxing at 15 and says he feels at home in the ring. “It was a great stage for them. The Commonwealth Games, other than the Olympics, is one of the most broadcast shows you can fight on so I really hope to do well.
“I’ve not set my targets yet. What I’d hope is that I do well at Gold Coast and then if I stay amateur, get on GB, if not I could maybe turn professional.” But first, he has to find his way to the top of the podium.