After four months sharpening his craft in the gymnasium, upwardly mobile Manchester super-feather Zelfa Barrett storms back into the limelight with scheduled fights over the next two weekends.
On Saturday, the nephew and disciple of the obscenely heavy handed ex WBO welterweight challenger Pat ‘Black Flash’ Barrett squares up to Hungarian teenager Aron Szilagyi at Middleton Arena.
Then, a week later, the 22 year old makes his long awaited debut under Frank Warren when he features on the undercard of the WBO lightweight showdown between Terry Flanagan and Derry Mathews at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.
‘It’s my brain and lifestyle that separates me above all the other talented prospects in Britain,’ claims the super confident Steve Wood managed starlet who has won seven straight with two stoppages.
‘The reason I can fight two consecutive weekends is because I live like a monk. It’s not a problem. I’m always in the gym, always mentally ready.
‘I believe in myself and, besides, the old timers like Willie Pep and Sugar Ray Robinson did it all the time. Proper champions.
‘I know others will bag the paper headlines in Liverpool but I want fans leaving the arena to be saying: ‘Wow! Where’s he been? I need to follow him.’
The kid from Harpurhey, three miles north-east of the city centre, first laced on the gloves at the age of eight.
‘My Uncle Pat has always been a huge hero. I remember watching tapes of his fights and trying to emulate his moves by shadow boxing in the living room,’ recalls the infectious youngster who talks as well as he fights.
‘When I was about eight, Uncle Pat started taking me to the Collyhurst and Moston Lads gym run by the great Brian Hughes, his former trainer.
‘ It was buzzing with warriors likes Michael Gomez and Arnie Farnell, Tommy McDonagh who was always really cheeky and made me laugh, Matty Hall, Michael Jennings and ‘The Man’, Robbie Reid who was world (WBC Super-Middle) champion at the time.
‘They all featured regularly on TV and were my heroes. I’d study them training and sparring, then go in the back room and mimic their moves; so many styles at that gym, so many good things to copy.
‘As a teenager, I trained for a good while alongside Terry Flanagan at the Ancoats ABC but returned to Collyhurst for my first amateur fight aged 16. I had 30 bouts, lost just four but they were mainly just club fights.
‘Despite my record, the (international) selectors never really considered me but I needed to get some experience before I went pro. It was always really hard for me to adapt to computer scoring when I was trained by pro coaches in Brian and Pat, and sparring with top pros in a professional environment. My game was always about making opponents miss then placing quality hard shots, not flapping.
‘I went in the ABAs just once, losing on a split in the national quarters to a lad called Jordan Cook from Coventry way. Instantly, the pros were much easier for me. Amateur boxing was a nine minute rush but the pro’s is more a thinking game. I can take my time and figure opponents out.’
A professional since October 2014, young Zelfa is in the enviable position of being able to tap into a fountain of fistic wisdom 24/7.
‘Uncle Pat’s my uncle, my dad, my landlord, my chef and my chauffeur. He even christened my ‘Brown Flash’ cos I’m so fast and ……brown!’ he says of the former British and European light-welter boss who lost just four of 42 between 1987-94.
‘Being the best, takes a lifetime’s work. From day one, we’ve worked on every aspect of my game and there’s nothing that I can’t do. I tick every box. I never want to find myself with a problem mid fight that I’ve not encountered before.
‘I’ve already given a good account of myself sparring world champions like (South Africa’s two time IBF king) Malcolm Klassen, Scott Quigg and Anthony Crolla who I got ready for both his world title camps with Darleys Perez.
‘So the groundwork’s done. I already train at a very high level. I’m equipped to deal with everything. No fighter my weight is better than me, ability wise. Inside a ring, there’s nothing for me to worry about. I never underestimate opponents but they’re just stepping stones.
Thus far, the 5ft 7in starlet has performed with a swagger that separates him above most rival prospects and his obvious talent is clearly replicated by his commitment to reaching the top.
‘Boxing’s my livelihood, my craft, my everything,’ insists Zelfa.
‘If I’m not actually boxing, I’m thinking boxing. On day’s off, I come to the gym to watch sparring or study DVDs at home. My favourites are Sugar Ray Leonard and Pernell Whittaker.
‘I loved Leonard’s pizzaz but also his underrated will to win that he showed to come from behind and win by stoppage in the first (Tommy) Hearns fight. ‘Sweet Pea’ (Whittaker) was so composed and a born entertainer; a 5ft 5in welter who fought every top guy. Of the present crop Terence Crawford’s my man; a real thinking fighter who never seems under pressure. I can’t see him every getting beat.
So what, I enquired, are his goals for 2016?
‘Simply to keep winning and building experience until my Uncle Pat tells me the time is right to challenge,’ he concludes.
‘When I fight, the fans are gonna see pure class. People who really appreciate their boxing, will appreciate me. While others rely on assets like speed and power which I too possess, I rely on my mind. I’ve a chess app on my phone. I can outthink opponents in seconds.
There’s lots operating at a high level but I aim to be ‘The Master’!