Boxer Kash Farooq says lockdown should help his career
The Covid-19 lockdown has taken away much from Kash Farooq. Last night, though, it offered some succour for the bantamweight fighter. The Scots-Pakistani 24-year-old has been so committed to his boxing training over the past decade that he can’t remember when he last truly feasted on Eid. It was different this weekend. Although the devout Muslim was not able to go to the mosque to celebrate the end of Ramadan with friends and kin as he would normally, in his Scotstoun home he could share all foods in the company of his family without watching carefully what he was eating.
“It has been a different Ramadan without being able to go to the mosque and pray and meet up there every night to end our fast, but I have enjoyed being with my family,” he said. “Everything has been different but that is the same for all people.”
The timing of the shutdown could be considered particularly unfortunate for Farooq. He was scheduled to have his first fight since joining the Matchroom stable run by Eddie Hearn, inset, on 4 April. That would have marked his return to the ring following the bitter experience of losing his British Bantamweight title on a highly contentious points-decision to Edinburgh rival Lee McGregor. Farooq, who spent the first three years of his life in Gujranwala, Lahore, is philosophical about the pause that has been placed on his burgeoning professional career.
“My fight may only have gone off two-and-a-half weeks before it was to take place, but it wasn’t a shock,” he said. “We knew what was coming with what was happening in Italy, Spain and France, so there was no great surprise. Maybe we thought then this would all go on for a few weeks and then we would get back to some sort of normality, but for good reason it hasn’t been like that.”
Farooq is determined to see the potential for personal good coming from the invidious circumstances that have left him pounding the streets but unable to pound any bags as a consequence of all gyms being closed.
“Since I got into boxing at 14, it has been my life,” he said. “I don’t think there has been more than a couple of days in a row over that time I haven’t been in a gym. I haven’t had a real holiday. I never saw my boxing as something that I would train for from Monday to Friday. I train seven days a week. The sacrifices have come easy because this is what I want to do. Maybe this little break might actually be good for me in the long run, then. It could bring the hunger out in me all the more.”
Farooq’s hunger has already brought to the fore a level of dedication that makes him a shining symbol of Scotland’s ‘one country, many cultures’ vision of itself. He is the first Scots-Pakistani to hold a Lonsdale belt and is rare among the fighter fraternity in seeking no downtime, even as a post-fight release.
“I have no interest in nightclubs, bars or drinking,” he said. “I’m just not into that type of thing. It doesn’t feel exciting to me. Maybe this isolation has been alright for me because it is pretty much what I do when I am building for a fight. I train, go to the gym, pray and sleep. If I am between fights I might socialise with friends on day trips to places, but that is it.”
Farooq is conscious of his status as a trailblazer. Not just in terms of his ethnicity but within his family, the Lahore side he hasn’t travelled to see since he left in 1999. “I did feel a sense of accomplishment when I won the belt [outright in 2019]. It was a really big thing for me to be the first [Scots Asian] to do that. But, of course, I want to keep going forward and making history. I am the first sportsman across all generations of my family – Asians don’t tend to get into boxing – and that means all those back in Pakistan and here are really proud of me. I want to keep making them proud of me.”
The circumstances of his first professional defeat meant he felt no loss of face at Glasgow’s Emirates in November. Not when the boxing world was united in the belief that the wrong hand had been raised aloft after the judges’ scorecards had been tallied up. “Everyone saw what happened; that is all that matters,” he said. “It is just the way it goes in boxing sometimes. I will keep moving on.”
There is talk of a late July bout to do so. It would be behind closed doors with a variety of modifications – with no spitting permitted in the ring, for instance – to ensure bouts can be conducted as safely as possible during the ongoing pandemic. “Boxing is just you and him; you and him in that ring,” said Farooq. “The crowd don’t win you fights. You have to do that for yourself.”
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