Last year Ilford brain box Umar Sadiq gave up crunching numbers to focus full-time on crunching the nation’s leading super-middleweights.
And the 29 year old London Met accountancy graduate reckons his high end intellect could be the key to him scaling the 12st tree.
‘It’s commonly agreed that boxing is 70-80% mental,’ says the bespectacled 6ft 3in stylist who represented both England and his native Nigeria at international level
‘I believe I’m a very good boxer all round. I stopped about 13 in the amateurs and scored several big knockdowns at international level so I can stick it on opponents if need be.
‘Nevertheless, I believe my biggest asset is my capacity to adapt. I definitely know how to use my height and reach to its best advantage and how to negate those who try to use my size against me.
‘Being able to operate on a high level cerebrally is certainly an asset. The most successful boxers ever – your Muhammad Alis, Sugar Ray Leonards, Floyd Mayweather Jrs, Roy Jones Jrs – all said very clever stuff. All were able to improvise, displayed sophisticated decision making; showed the emotional maturity to stay calm and come up with the solutions to whatever challenges confronted them.’
The man known as ‘Top Boxer’ was well into his 21st year before embarking on an amateur career at the fabled Repton club in London’s East End.
‘Even as a young child, I always knew I was going to be special, make a big impact on the world, seemingly, it’s going to be through boxing,’ says Sadiq.
‘Making it to university is a huge thing in Nigerian culture. I loved working with numbers and was always business minded.
‘There are many transferable skills between boxing and accountancy. I’m very efficient by nature. In both disciplines, you need to be pragmatic. In both, you need to detach emotion from facts; be calculated, disciplined, be responsible, assume ownership for your work. Both need to master forecasting and forward planning.
‘I love learning and if I hear or find something that intrigues me, I have to research it. I’m big into self help and spiritualism and consider myself something of a philanthropist. I’m also extremely well travelled through Europe, South-East Asia and Australia. I also did charity work in Nicaragua and intend spending a lot more time in the Americas in future.’
Despite the late start, Umar’s calculated, cognitive ring style saw him victorious in 36 of 45 amateur gigs and triumph in the Senior London ABAs, British Universities tournament and Haringey Box Cup (twice).
‘Starting so late will have no impact on my career,’ insists vegan Sadiq who enjoyed two highly paid years working in the City before sacrificing all to sign pro terms with Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren last June.
‘In fact it will prove a blessing. Previously, I wasn’t prepared to give professional boxing 100%. People have this stigma about what age you should turn pro and what longevity a career should have.
‘But I’ve been able to get a relevant education before entering this commercial environment and I’ve also got the partying and travel bugs out of my system. I now know how well structured I need to be to succeed. I’ve acquired the maturity to appreciate the seriousness of what I’m doing.’
More than a year separated Sadiq’s final amateur contest from a very efficient pro debut at London’s Copper Box Arena last September when he systematically shut-out ex soldier Lewis van Poetsch over four rounds on the Billy Joe Saunders-Willie Munroe Jr undercard.
‘My naturally stoic mindset certainly helped in eliminating nerves or over confidence ahead of my debut,’ claims cool cat Umar.
‘Fighting all the home grown fighters in hostile arenas back in Nigeria to secure my berth on their Olympic (qualifying) team means I’m comfortable performing before intimidating crowds.
‘It was extremely hot inside the Copper Box ring with all the lights but other than that it was no different from my 45 amateur fights. It wasn’t my goal to force a stoppage, I just wanted to shake off the cobwebs, showcase my skills and deliver a controlled performance which is exactly what I gave.’
After missing out as a ‘floater’ on the DeGale-Truax bill in December, clever clogs Umar returns to ‘The Box That Rocks’ for a second paid start (against an as yet unnamed foe) on February 10th. He vows to ‘entertain as much out of the ring as inside’.
‘I’m naturally a ‘fun’ person who doesn’t take myself too seriously as is evident from my social media posts. I like to think I post engaging stuff,’ he concludes.
‘I try to live my life through a number of key philosophies and the main one is that: ‘If anything is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.
‘I live the life and, by the time I retire, I hope to be universally recognised as the best in the world at multiple weights, a unified, undisputed world champion with enough money to make my whole family financially independent.’