Yafai, pictured left, in action against Joahnys Argilagos at a World Series of Boxing tournament back in 2016WorldSeriesBoxing/Flickr

There are a few sports at the Olympics that always seem to take my fancy, and boxing is most certainly one of them. Switching on the TV to witness Team GB’s Galal Yafai score a victory over Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov was a moment of elation not just for the 28-year old boxer, but also for me as a proud spectator from Birmingham. Galal’s performance guarantees Team GB six boxing medals at the Games, an achievement not matched since 1920, as he prepares to take on Carlo Paalam of the Philippines for Olympic gold tomorrow morning (07/08).

“Galal has proven both to himself and local athletes like me that hard work pays off every time”

Galal is an amateur flyweight boxer of Yemeni descent, born and raised in Birmingham and representing both England and Team GB. His boxing record boasts a number of decorations: silver at the 2017 European Championships, a 2018 Commonwealth Games gold, and bronze at the 2019 European Games. Now on the verge of potentially becoming an Olympic gold medalist in Tokyo, Galal reflected on his semi-final victory as “a ridiculous dream”.

What makes Galal’s success all the more fascinating is the fact that he has come from a family of boxers, all of whom contended with truly humble beginnings within the boxing gyms of Birmingham’s back streets before bursting onto the scene as local, borderline national, legends. Both Khalid and Gamal Yafai, Galal’s older brothers, have achieved their own share of success whilst representing Team GB at the highest level, alongside carving out individual accomplishments in the bantamweight division. Coming off the back of his winning bout in Tokyo, Galal took a moment to reflect on his journey, proclaiming that his career was “destined and meant to be” from the outset, as he and his brothers would constantly spar in the living room to their mother’s annoyance.

“Rarely do I see individuals from a background like mine thrive in sport”

From “doing the rubbish” at Jaguar Land Rover in Solihull just a few miles from my own home, “grafting, picking up boxes, dreaming of being at the Olympic Games”, Galal has proven both to himself and local athletes like me that hard work pays off every time. Galal even admits that he “hated working”, yet a round-of-16 defeat at the 2016 Rio Olympics served as motivation for him to bounce back in Tokyo and scrap it out for a medal. Now reaping the rewards of his commitment, Galal becomes the first British flyweight to have an opportunity to fight for gold since Terry Spinks in 1956, an eventual champion who was once a binman from a similar labouring background.


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Having trained in a boxing gym in Birmingham since an early age, I have always seen the Yafai brothers as a constant source of inspiration for the aspiring boxers around me, as they dream of paving their own paths to the Olympic Games. Beneath the murals of Lennox Lewis, Frank Bruno, and David Haye, my fellow Brummie boxers have always brushed aside the star-studded stories of the greats to speak about the recent accomplishments of our local heroes. Although Galal isn’t yet landing multi-million dollar fights like his heavyweight counterparts, we must remember that Anthony Joshua owes a large part of his professional boxing career to the 2012 London Olympics, becoming a household name after striking gold.

As I witness a non-white, Muslim athlete from Birmingham succeed at the highest level of sport, Galal has proven to me that social boundaries can be overcome and adversities turned into opportunities through the discipline drilled into young athletes that fill the backstreet gyms of my city. Rarely do I see individuals from a background like mine thrive in sport, but now that Galal is well and truly making his mark on the international stage I can sit back and appreciate the success of my hometown hero, as well as the influence that his story will have on Brummie boxers making their way onto the pads.