By Richard Hubbard
“I want the Haskins fight myself, that red belt, I want it”
Away wins in Europe have become a rarer commodity in recent times, as Britain’s entries into football’s Champions League jamboree will testify, reaching the knockout stage is no longer the foregone conclusion it once appeared.
British boxers venturing onto the mainland – with the honourable exception of one Tyson Fury in Germany – have often encountered similar stubborn resistance in their quest for an away win.
Reaching the knockout stage did not prove beyond Liverpool’s Ryan Farrag in October when he landed in Liege and seized the European title from home fighter and two weight world title challenger Stephane Jamoye in one of British boxing’s standout performances of the year.
The underdog snapped, snarled and ultimately dismantled the favourite by TKO in round nine.
It has been suggested that this away-day title triumph slipped largely under the radar of the boxing public, but it is probably more the case that most received the welcome news, but did not see it unfold as the card was not a television broadcast event.
Farrag’s snappy shots, however, were an internet hit.
Now he is set to return to the small screen on BoxNation as part of the support act to Terry Flanagan’s defence of his WBO lightweight title against Derry Mathews at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on February 13.
“I think that is what people mean by it going under the radar, because it wasn’t televised, although it was streamed live and a lot of people saw it,” explained the 27-year-old on his joy against Jamoye. “At the end of the day, I’m happy about the performance, the win and I got the European title. I’m happy!
“I’d looked at Jamoye and seen his style and how he fought. I knew my style was better and that I was a better fighter than him. I said I was going there to stop him and I did.
“It is one thing winning at home, but when you go away and all the odds are against you, when you get that win it is so much sweeter when it’s away,” added the bantamweight, who did concede that he was not fighting in particularly hostile territory.
“No it wasn’t, the Belgians are nice people, they are friendly and Jamoye is a gentleman. I wouldn’t have minded if it was hostile, I would have went in and done the same, but it was nice that they were such respectful people.
Farrag now hopes respect and recognition for his deeds will follow as he seeks to etch his own place in the bigger picture of his weight division, in which Britain is home to two world champions – Jamie McDonnell and Lee Haskins.
“Yes, they say you are only as good as your last fight sort of thing, so you can only get the recognition when you are in with these sort of fighters, he reasoned. “Put me in with them and I’ll rise to the occasion, as I always do. It is good to be fighting people of that level and then getting the recognition for it.”
IBF champion Haskins, who was awarded the belt without climbing into the ring to face the weight-laden holder Randy Caballero, already holds a victory of sorts over Farrag having overcome the Liverpool man in Prizefighter back in 2012.
Defeat in the potted version of professional boxing combat over three rounds, in eyes of many, should not count as a lasting blot on the resumes of participants. It is the one reverse on the card of the 14-1 Farrag.
“A lot of people say that!” he chuckled, before questioning the validity of the decision. “In my eyes it was a close fight against Haskins for three rounds. I slipped and my glove touched down and the ref took a point off me – I was gutted because it weren’t a knock down. But because my glove touched the ground it cost me a point.
“Lee knows what happened in the fight and I hope he wants to fight me again because I want to fight him, but we will have to wait and see in the future, won’t we?”
With an EBU belt comes a healthy dollop of credibility, making Farrag a more than worthy option for Britain’s bantamweight twosome.
“That EBU title is the best European belt there is and it does qualify me. They are the two people I’ve got my eye on. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got this fight next month and I’ll be focused on that, but you’ve got to look long term and those two are definitely in my sights. They would be good domestic fights for the viewers watching.
“They’ve got to be looking at the fights out there and have got to see me as a good fight for them. I haven’t had half the experience as most of the people up there so hopefully they will take a chance.”
Farrag isn’t just looking longer-term in his boxing career, for his has already figured out what cards he would like fate to deal him when he comes to hang up the gloves – his wish is to try his hand at professional poker.
“When I retire as a boxer, that’s me! I want to sit at a table playing cards for the rest of my life travelling around the world for the World Series and stuff like that. I don’t know if I’m that good though.
“Do I have a poker face? What I find is that I’m good at making quick decisions and being able to read people. That is good for poker and it comes into play in boxing as well if you can read someone, it gives you the upper hand.
“No I’m not a kidder, I don’t really like to bluff, only if I think someone has been bluffing me I will try and get in someone’s head.”
Not that Farrag is quite ready to cash in his boxing chips just yet, there is four-of-a-kind he wants to fight for before he looks to play his cards right.
“Yeah, I want to win world titles first, obviously. My dream is that I want to unify my division, I want all the world titles. That is a big ask, but not too big because it can be done and is possible. Dream big!
“There is a number of things that could happen this year. After this fight I could either go and defend my European, Haskins might come out and give me a shot at his title, McDonnell maybe.
“I want the Haskins fight myself, that red belt, I want it,” he stated, acknowledging that a coming together with McDonnell is less likely as the WBA champion currently operates in the USA for bigger pay days.
“He is up there, he’s got his title and wants to make as much money off the back of it as he can. Fair play to him, but when I get the WBA I want the IBF, WBO and the WBC – I want them all, me. Money is not enough for me.”
With a full house of belts, Farrag could then put his cards on the table.