With the return of the British Lionhearts to this year’s World Series of Boxing (WSB), the all-star roster will be raring to go against the China Dragons on Thursday 15 January 2015 at York Hall in London. Seen as a bridge between the amateur and professional world, this time around the competition will also provide a route for boxers to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games.
We spoke to super heavyweight Commonwealth champion Joe Joyce and rising bantamweight star Qais Ashfaq about their Glasgow 2014 experience and the year ahead.
How did you find the experience of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Glasgow?
[QA] It was an amazing experience, for me, the CWG were all about experience as I’m not the most experienced member of the team so just getting that is bringing me on leaps and bounds and has does wonders for my confidence. The more experience I get, the better I’m getting.
[JJ] It was unbelievable, even the warm up bouts were jam packed and the crowd were great. Then we moved to the Hydro and wow! There were so many people, it was a great experience for me and is easily the biggest thing I’ve been a part of.
What experiences and lessons will you take from Glasgow into this year’s WSB?
[QA] As a school boy and a junior I’ve travelled all around the world boxing, but it’s those big fights that I don’t have the experience of, so getting that top level experience like I did in the CWG is doing lots for my confidence and making me a better fighter overall. As I’m getting older I’m getting stronger and my style is changing. Getting to the finals of the CWG against the highest ranked boxer – and nearly beating him - in the tournament has done wonders for me, getting that close was what I needed. I’m confident in my ability and that knowledge will help me push on this year.
[JJ] The WSB is based on a longer format, so you have more time in the ring, this meant I had more time to develop my ringcraft, footwork and abilities under longer periods of pressure in the ring. But winning that gold at the CWG, in front of such a big crowd, helped to show me a different level of pressure and how to channel it positively.
Will the crowds play a bit part in this year’s WSB?
[QA] In all honesty the crowd, good or bad, never really affects me that much. I’m one of those people that, once I’m in the ring, get tunnel vision and it’s just me and my opponent.
[JJ] I’m a bit of a WSB veteran now having competed in 2013 for the British Lionhearts and 2014 for the Italian Thunder, so I’m used that crowd and you get used to that feeling. I just concentrate on getting in that ring, doing my job and beating my opponent. The crowds encouragement helps though, they push you on to do better.
What are your goals for this year?
[QA] Simply put, I want to win more medals, hopefully gold. I’m looking to achieve one better all the time in every competition I’m in. This year my aim is to qualify for the Olympics in Rio 2016, I’ve been training hard and I’m looking forward to getting this year underway.
[JJ] Realistically I’m looking to get that confirmation that I’ll be getting my ticket and going to Rio 2016!
Do you think GB Boxing is in a good place with one year to go to Rio 2016?
[QA] Yes, definitely as a team, we’ve got some great lads coming through and we work hard and have great ambition. I’m so happy to be a part of this team, I just want to use the experience, win my fights, get a world ranking and then compete in the Olympics for a gold medal.
[JJ] Of course, we’ve got a great stable of boxers at the moment. We’ll all be wanting to do well [in WSB] as it’s about qualification for Rio 2016 and we’ve all got the opportunity to achieve that. Everybody here wants to do well at Rio 2016.
Finally, which boxer should fans look out for this year?
[QA] I’m going to say Anthony Fowler as I’m currently staring straight into his eyes! I’m looking right at him so yes, definitely going to say Anthony Fowler!
[JJ] Me! Haha!