Talking Boxing

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No excuses

Ryan Farrag



We are full of them.

Whether it’s to do with our job, our love life, our family or our social life we have all come up with excuses at one time or another.

Excuses are prevalent in sport, and boxing is no stranger to them. “I couldn’t spar for weeks," “I damaged my hand in training," “I can’t do the weight anymore”. Some boxers, however, just accept defeat for what it is: Not the end of the world, and accepting that maybe you were beat by a better opponent.

28-year-old Ryan Farrag (16-2, 4 KOs) didn't roll out the excuses losing his European bantamweight title back in June to Karim Guerfi. A third round stoppage loss in his first defence, that was a shoot-out for as long as it lasted.

“I got caught with a good shot. We were trading, it happens,” Farrag told Talking Boxing recently.

Farrag’s firepower looked like it was going to be too much for his French opponent, who got himself into the fight in the second round, and in the third unloaded a combination of shots that ended with a left hand and ended Farrag’s reign as European champion.

“I think on the night with Guerfi I maybe rushed the fight a bit when I didn’t have to,” Farrag said. “And that’s something I’ve learned with a harsh lesson… the hard way. When I boxed [Stephane] Jamoye (when Farrag won the European title) I was very patient. So it’s all experience.”

It’s experiences from a six-year career that Liverpool’s Farrag believes will be a deciding factor when he challenges Northern Ireland’s Ryan Burnett (14-0, 9 KOs) for the British 118lbs title at the city’s Echo Arena tomorrow night. Lee Haskins (albeit in Prizefighter), Jason Booth, Jamoye and Guerfi are four names that Farrag has had differing success against, but crucially has aided his development.

In contrast, Burnett, 24 is still very much a work in progress – a highly rated one it has to be said -  and in Farrag has his toughest assignment to date despite his own win over Booth (two years after Farrag defeated him) and a 12-round shut-out victory over Anthony Settoul.

Those two wins’ rank as Burnett’s best so far. The Farrag fight will be his first British title defence and his first professional foray into the lion’s den.

“In my eyes he [Burnett] hasn’t been tested,” Farrag commented.

“He boxed for the British title against Jason Booth. He got lucky there with that, in my eyes. I boxed Booth two years ago in an eight rounder. I believe he was lucky in getting the British title fight against Booth.

“I watched the Booth fight, and Booth gave him trouble in the late rounds. I don’t think Burnett will be able to handle my style. He might do okay with it in the early rounds, but in the later rounds the harder the fight will get.

“I’ll need to make the ring as small as possible for Ryan on the night, and not give him any room to breathe. So at some point he will have to fight with me. He won’t be able to run for 12 rounds, there’s no chance.”

Farrag freely admits he’s an offensive fighter, likes to give the fans their money’s worth and intends to “drag” the belt off Burnett rather than steal it. The Liverpudlian is willing to take risks against Burnett should he not feel the champion’s power early on. If that happens, Farrag's plan has a plan that has an old-fashioned ring to it.

“I’ll stick it right on him.”

“And maybe try and get him out of there early,” Farrag added.

“We’ll be ready to box, we’ll be ready to fight. If I go back at one point and my coaches say to me ‘look, put it on this fella’, then that’s what I’ll do.”

Farrag rates Burnett, who possesses great hand speed, and potent punch combinations… but he believes he’s seen it all in the ring or in the gym when sparring.

Haskins, Booth, Jamoye and Guerfi have all given him food for thought in defeat or victory. And sparring the likes of Nick Quigley, former IBF world bantamweight champion Paul Butler, and the highly rated Zhanat Zhakiyanov in the run up to tomorrow night has only renewed Farrag’s belief that he has the tools, the experience and the adaptability to emerge triumphant in front of his home support.

“I’ve been in there with so many different styles, that whatever’s put in front of me I can think on my feet in there. I can adapt to any opponent. You’re sparring lads in the gym with all different styles as well. Every day you’re learning, you’re adapting. And that’s what I like. I like getting in there with something new, a new challenge.

“John Quigley has just joined us. I’ve done a bit of sparring with him and he’s got quite a similar style to Burnett, in that he switches. He’s got very fast hands, so it’s good to be able to work with someone like that ahead of this fight and work him out. The first time I got in with John his style did surprise me, but as the weeks went on I adapted to it. I was able to work him out.

“I’ve been sparring Zhanat, Ricky Hatton’s fighter, he’s very strong. You don’t really want to stand and trade with him so you have to box, and I’ve been sparring Paul Butler who’s got very fast hands and punches in combinations. I’ve had every style covered for this camp so I feel that when I get in there no matter what Burnett brings I’ll be able to cover it.

“I’m expecting a tough fight, and that’ll bring the best out of me. I’m not going to take him lightly. I’m sure he won’t take me lightly either, but I think it’s going to be a brilliant fight.”