Galal Yafai close to realising Olympic dream after reaching flyweight final

Yafai will finish on the top step of the podium if he beats Carlo Paalam to claim gold on Saturday.

David Charlesworth
Thursday 05 August 2021 08:37
Australian skateboarder crashes into cameraman in park competition

Galal Yafai is just one fight away from realising his dream of becoming an Olympic gold medallist after reaching the men’s flyweight final with a split decision win over Saken Bibossinov in a three-round firefight.

Yafai exploded out of the traps and his early switch-hitting seemed to confuse his Kazakh opponent, whose legs momentarily buckled after he was caught by a straight left on the ropes, resulting in a standing eight-count.

But Bibossinov, a bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championships, rallied after losing the first round on all five of the judges’ scorecards, refusing to take a backwards step and having success with his all-action style.

However, Yafai was able to avoid a lot of punishment in this thriller and his showing in the first three minutes was ultimately decisive as he was awarded victory by three judges, with the other two siding with Bibossinov.

While Team GB are guaranteed six medals at Tokyo 2020 – their best haul since the 1920 Games in Antwerp – they are yet to have a boxer finish on the top step of the podium, which Yafai will do if he beats Carlo Paalam on Saturday.

Asked what that would mean to him, he responded: “It’s Olympic gold, man, Olympic gold’s crazy, imagine being the Olympic champion!

“It’s something that I’ve dreamed of and I could never see happening – to be in an Olympic final is never something I thought I could do and now I’m in it, it just goes to show if you put in hard work then you reap the rewards.

“I’m always in exciting fights, I should just try to stick on my jab and move around. But I know I need to stick to what I’m doing, it’s worked so far, so I’ll carry on.”

Yafai is the youngest of three boxing brothers. Kal, 32, is a former WBA super-flyweight champion who missed out on London 2012 after losing a box-off against fellow Briton Andrew Selby while Gamal, 30, is an ex-European super-bantamweight titlist.

Yafai, 28, reflected on their upbringing in Birmingham and how they were continually being told off by their mother for fighting in the house.

“My mum was always going mad, ‘take your gloves off, stop hitting your little brother’,” Yafai said.

“If we had a video recorder back then you’d be surprised, it was destined and meant to be. We were fighting every day in the sitting room with gloves on.

“Those two started me off, hopefully I can finish it off now.”