High IQ: Youssef Khoumari & Xavier Miller interview
Photos courtesy of Butterfly Boxing
Fresh off his victory on the prestigious World Boxing Super Series undercard at Wembley, prospect Youssef Khoumari and his trainer Xavier Miller talk to Boxing Monthly...
Wembley lightweight Youssef Khoumari is now 2-0 and owes his entry into the sport to the inspiration provided by a Filipino legend.
“I used to watch Manny Pacquiao on the TV," he explains. "One time I was in the Philippines watching him. I looked around and saw how everyone was looking at him and thought, ‘When you get back to London, give it a go,’ [referring to boxing]. It went from there. I was around nine years old at the time.”
Progressing fast as an amateur, Khoumari had over 40 fights, during which time he boxed for London in Denmark, won the Southern Area Title, the Haringey Cup and also reached the North West final of the junior elites.
Now fighting under the banner of Steve Goodwin Promotions, Khoumari expresses confidence in the man arranging his fights. “I have no complaints about Steve," he says. "He delivers and not just for myself. You only hear good things about him and I’d also back that statement up. He does his best for his boxers and that’s all we can ask from him.”
Having made his professional debut on 9 September this year, Khoumari extended his record to 2-0, impressing in front of his home crowd, at the Wembley SSE Arena on 14 October.
His opponent, former three-time Southern Area champion, Jamie Speight (15-14), proved to be a good test. Despite having an almost equal number of losses versus victories, Speight never turns up just to make up the numbers. The fellow Goodwin promoted boxer always comes to fight and this evening was no exception.
Khoumari’s trainer, Xavier Miller shares with us an insight into the careful preparations he undertook for the fight. “I watched Jamie a few times and I noticed he throws looping uppercuts from the outside at times. But he also has some habits on the inside. He likes to mix it, but he drops his right hand a lot.
"So I said to Youssef: ‘This guy’s got a lot of experience. Don’t go after him, rushing your punches and looking untidy. I’d rather you looked tidy and did the four rounds, boxing every minute and getting the experience, because that’s going to pay later on. You won’t learn anything trying to get an experienced opponent out in one round. I’m trying to build you into a world champion, so you need to pick up this experience.
“'You’ll get away with using your check hook and walk forward behind your shoulder, so in that way all the shots he throws will come off your shoulder and you can use your jab.'"
Miller then adds, “Youssef’s a great student and does exactly what he’s told. He always sticks to the game plan.”
The plan certainly came together nicely on the evening. Once the score of 40-36 in favour of Khoumari was read out, there was a touching moment of camaraderie between the fighters. Speight walked across the ring and congratulated Khoumari, then had a few kind words to say.
“He was giving me some tips after," Khoumari explains. "He was telling me to keep my hands up at certain points of the fight and a few other bits of advice. He’s a gentleman.”
At 21 years of age, Khoumari looks like he has a bright future ahead of him and his next fight is scheduled for 2 December, against veteran Joe Beedon. However both fighter and trainer seem to have their feet firmly on the ground, not looking beyond any opponent.
“First it’s Beedon," Khoumari emphasises. "Late next year I’d hope to be challenging for a Southern Area title. I just want to get as much experience as I can for now. You only get one shot at this, so I don’t want to run before I can walk and make any mistakes.”
Miller adds: “Development is very important at this stage. I want to work on the jab. I want him to control the pace of the fights with his jab. He’s got a great jab and he’s a very good counter puncher. I’ve had Youssef for a very long time. He’s had about 15 or 16 fights with IQ (Boxing). I was his amateur coach, then I got my pro licence and carried on with him when he turned over professional.
“The intention was always to turn pro this year. Even as an amateur he fought like a pro. In fact, I teach all of my amateurs like pros, so the transition for them is very, very easy. For Youssef, now it’s about dominating behind that left hand, inside work and a lot of shoulder roll. That’s what I’ve been watching since I was 12 years old, watching the likes of Emmanuel Steward, Eddie Futch and those sort of coaches.
"I’m also a big fan of Ian Napa and used to love watching his Detroit boxing style, which I was drawn to. That’s the same style I’ve taught Youssef and intend to developing into 2018.”
Signing off, Miller adds: “He’s a motivated superstar in the making and I can’t see why he can’t make it.”