Ambitious Ashfaq confident he can clinch golden double

Leeds' European Championship silver medallist boxer Qais Ashfaq. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
Leeds' European Championship silver medallist boxer Qais Ashfaq. Picture: Bruce Rollinson
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QAIS ASHFAQ – one of Yorkshire’s brightest young boxing stars – believes it is difficult to compare an Olympic gold medal to a world title belt.

Nicola Adams, Ashfaq’s former club-mate at Burmantofts ABC, proudly won the former at London 2012, while Josh Warrington – also from Leeds – could bid to become world champion next year.

Compared to both, Ashfaq remains a novice but there is no hiding his ambition as he solves the Olympics versus worlds debate by declaring: “The plan is to win both.”

Bantamweight Ashfaq has a long way to go before fulfilling such lofty ambitions, but there is no hiding the pedigree of a 22-year-old boxer who has already been competing for Great Britain for six years.

In 2011, the former Prince Henry’s Grammar School student bagged gold at the 2011 European Commonwealth Games and – three years on – took a full Commonwealth silver at Glasgow in 2014.

This year has seen Ashfaq step up again by bagging a bronze at the European Games in Baku followed by silver at the European Amateur Championships in Samokov.

The boxer will bid to go one better at the World Amateur Championships in Qatar in October but, if Ashfaq has his way, it is in 2016 and beyond where the best is yet to come.

Ashfaq told The Yorkshire Post: “This this year has been the year where I have gone in and boxed in my first two major tournaments and I’ve medalled at both.

“I have beat some good kids including the world No 3 in the European Championships so I’ve proved I am at the top level.

“I’m making a name for myself now, people are noticing me and hopefully I can keep pushing on.

“I’ve got the World Championships in Qatar next so hopefully I’ll win there and to win an Olympic gold would be perfect, especially before I turn professional which is the plan – stay amateur until Rio and then I’ll turn professional. It’s always tempting to stay as an amateur, but I think the ultimate aim when you first put a pair of gloves on is to win world titles as a pro’ and that’s always been my dream.

“I think the Olympics is more prestigious but the dream is always to win a world title.

“I’ve heard of many pros, people like De La Hoya and Sugar Ray Leonard that have said their prized possession is always the Olympic gold medal.

“But obviously they went on to win many world titles as well. Win both – that’s the plan.”

Two cities are driving Ashfaq to his ambitious goals – Leeds – where he lives in Holt Park – and Sheffield where he trains five times a week at the English Institute of Sport, home of GB Boxing.

Ashfaq quipped: “I prefer being in Leeds to Sheffield be honest. But I think that might be because every time I go to Sheffield you know you are going to get put through graft. You think ‘not again!’ Leeds is rest.”

Yet hard work in the Steel City is paying dividends with Ashfaq also backed by big names, such as Amir Khan.

It is 11 years since Khan secured silver at the 2004 Olympics in Athens – five years before becoming WBA light-welterweight champion of the world in Manchester. Ashfaq is now aiming to follow suit but, at Rio 2016, is confident of going one better than Khan did.

“Since the Commonwealths and these tournaments I can actually see myself and feel myself improving,” said Ashfaq.

“As long I keep improving I know for a fact there’s no stopping me now.

“I know I can win that world gold in Qatar and the Rio 2016 Olympics gold medal.

“I’ve been developing with GB for the last five years now – developing perfectly and I’m at the right stage that I need to be at now. It’s all developing towards the Olympics and I think by the time the Olympics come I’ll win that gold medal in Rio.”