Hamed Ghaz: From war-torn youth in Afghanistan to the pride of Bradford eyeing an English title shot

Hamed Ghaz endured a more difficult childhood than most but a move to Bradford when he was 11-years-old soon turned things around for him.

Hamed Ghaz celebrates after beating Dan Naylor in Leeds earlier in his career. (Picture: Nigel Roddis/Getty Images)

The undefeated boxer – whose record stands at 17-0 – was born in Afghanistan before moving to Yorkshire with his family prior to his teenage years.

Now 25, Ghaz had never put on a pair of boxing gloves until he turned 12 but enjoyed a successful amateur career before taking the step into the professional ranks aged 18.

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Things could have turned out very different for him, however.

Hamed Ghaz made it 17-0 against Liam Shinkwin at the car park of Sheffield Arena in June (Picture: Michael Ault)

His father had spent time in England working to earn enough money for Ghaz and his family to leave his home country, which has been blighted by war for decades.

Ghaz and his brother used to enjoy taekwondo in their native Afghanistan but had to stop as it was too dangerous to walk to the local gym.

When they moved to Bradford they couldn’t find a place to continue the martial art, so Ghaz turned to boxing – and he has not looked back since.

Last week, he extended his record to 17 professional victories as he knocked out Liam Shinkwin – a Youth Olympics silver medallist and former national amateur champion – in the third round of an English lightweight title eliminator.

Hamed Ghaz fighting Liam Shinkwin at the car park of Sheffield Arena in June (Picture: Michael Ault)

Ghaz now has his eye on English champion Myron Mills as he looks to get on the title trail.

Things have gone pretty well since moving to England and he remains grateful to his father, who worked until he had the ability to provide a safer life for his family.

“I was 11-years-old when I moved here. Growing up in Afghanistan, it was a difficult life for a young lad, with the war,” Ghaz told The Yorkshire Post.

“My Dad came here before the rest of my family to work and try to give us a better life.

Hamed Ghaz lands an uppercut on Liam Shinkwin (Picture: Michael Ault)

“There was a period of time where he was working 20-hour days, just to make sure we could get here and have a better life.

“Over there, things were so difficult. The education, the security – everything. My Dad sacrificed so much of his life so we could get here.

“When I was 12, I started boxing.

“Since then, I have been living in Bradford and I have grown up here. England has given me so much opportunity to achieve my dream. Boxing has been my life.

“In Afghanistan, me and my brother did taekwondo but for security reasons we had to stop.

“We didn’t have a car and we would have to walk for miles to get to the gym, so we had to quit because there were bomb blasts everyday.

“For that reason, my parents stopped us going there.

“When we got to Bradford, we couldn’t find a good taekwondo gym but one of my Dad’s friends introduced us to boxing.

“I had so much anger, frustration and energy in me and I wanted to take it out on something.

“The day I walked into the boxing gym, I said ‘this is it’ – I wanted to be the best at this and achieve something really, really big. I wanted to make my family proud and my Dad proud because he sacrificed so much for us.

“From that day onwards, I started boxing and set a goal to become a world champion.”

Ghaz first slipped on a pair of gloves at Huggy’s Boxing Gym in Bradford. He is now trained by Al Osta in Osta’s Boxing Gym in Leeds.

He believed turning professional at a young age was the best thing for his career. Ghaz’s knockout win over Shinkwin was his fourth by KO in 17 bouts.

He feels that he may start to notch up more stoppage wins as he begins to face fighters who have more to lose than previous opponents.

In the early stages of his career, Ghaz – like most young boxers – took on journeymen, who usually step in to face more novice fighters or agree to face someone if a contest falls through.

“Looking at my record, before last Friday, I had three stoppages,” continued Ghaz.

“When I am fighting journeymen, they tuck up because they are not trying to win, they are mostly coming for a payday. I was only 18 when I turned pro, so I had no other choice but to fight them. It was about getting my experience one way or another.

“Sometimes it takes me a couple of rounds to get going, so when I was doing four and six rounds – I was only getting warmed up before the fight was over.

“The fight before my last fight, I got offered to fight another journeyman as a warm-up but I turned it down because I am at the stage where I want to fight people with winning records.

“It will bring the best out of me. I feel like I can open up and look for openings. When an opponent is there and trying to win, there will be more openings.

“This is just the start and I know there will be harder fights and better fights out there but whoever is out there I will be ready for them.”

Ghaz’s return to the ring in the car park at Sheffield Arena last week was the first time he had stepped through the ropes in almost two years.

The Covid-19 pandemic meant he was unable to compete but he feels he used the time outside of the ring wisely.

“It felt absolutely amazing, it was great to be back in the ring. Boxing is a passion for me, it is something that I love doing,” he said.

“That time off was just so frustrating as I was not able to go out there and show what I am good at and what I am capable of doing. In the meantime, I was in the gym. The time off gave me time to work with my new trainer, work on new things and on areas that we could improve. Last Friday showed that the time off was a blessing in a way because I had that time with my trainer. I didn’t change my style but changed certain things to make me an improved fighter.”

He continued: “The style I had before I had my new trainer, I would throw 100 miles an hour, 100 punches in one round – it was just non-stop. I didn’t really care where it was landing.

“With my last fight, I hurt him in the second round but I felt there was still a long time left in the fight. I was just staying focused and trying to place my punches in the right spots.

“In the third round, I hurt him again and from that moment whatever he was throwing just wasn’t landing properly – I couldn’t even feel his punches.

“I just took it up a gear and went for a stoppage and that is what I did. The main thing was sticking to the game-plan that me and my trainer had worked on.”

All of Ghaz’s professional fights have taken place in Yorkshire. He has boxed at the First Direct Arena on a Josh Warrington undercard and despite most boxers dreaming of competing at the likes of Wembley or in the USA, Ghaz’s dream venue lies much closer to home. “My dream venue would be at Valley Parade. Hopefully one day, if I could get a world title then I could defend or fight for it at Valley Parade,” he said.

“That would be amazing. There aren’t many big fighters that have come out of Bradford. I want to make the city proud.”