'Humble and grateful': Ermal Dida interview
Photo: Twitter @ErmalDida
Harry Drinkwater meets rising Albanian-born and Bedford-based middleweight Ermal Dida and discovers that he caught the boxing bug after watching Luan Krasniqi in action...
It's easy to see why Albanian-born middleweight Ermal Dida is causing such interest among boxing fans as he prepares for his third professional bout.
As an 11-year-old he watched when countryman Luan Krasniqi – who he admits was a national hero at the time – fought Timo Hoffmann in a European championship fight,. Dida still recalls how he was captivated by the rapturous crowd and the to-and-fro of the fight as the two gladiators put everything on the line.
Born in Albania in 1993, Dida moved to England as a youngster in search of a new life with his family. It was here that he told his father that he wanted to take up boxing - the sport that had been on his mind since that night watching Krasniqi. His father took him to Matt Skelton's gym where each day he would skip, work out on the pads and run.
It was here, he admits, that he caught the boxing bug.
“I had quite a short amateur career compared to many about these days," he tells Boxing Monthly. "I only had around 52 [bouts] - junior and senior.
“I was at Sandy ABC to start with, I was there about two years before transferring to Bedford ABC. Here I really felt at home, being welcomed by the well-experienced coach Carl Hazelwood.
“As you have to in the amateurs, I dedicated my life to the sport," Dida explains. "I trained twice a day, five days a week, with running in the mornings before school and then later work, followed by a two-hour gym session in the evening.
“This made it all the more frustrating because, like many, I felt I got the wrong end of a few decisions and it always seemed to happen in the bigger fights too.
“But I had a lot of highs all the same, I was a semi-finalist of the Under-20 Novice Championships and England Alliance Elite, as well as being an England trialist in 2012.”
Dida was talent spotted by current manager Winston Fuller, who was instantly impressed by the young pugilist's ability to control fights with his technique and footwork.
The two spoke in-depth afterwards about where the youngster wanted to go in the sport - the conversation went so well that Dida signed with him and ventured into the paid ranks.
Along with his coach Carl, he built a team perfect for the transition. “I have 100 per cent faith in Winston to get me fights at the right time and the fights that will test me and progress me correctly," Dida argues. "Along with Carl, my coach, everything is going well. Carl has the belief in me that somedays if I am down or not feeling great, he spurs me on. He knows exactly what to say, I think sometimes he knows me better than I know myself.
“I have never felt like I have gone stale with him, ever since we have started working together I have felt like I am constantly improving.
“Then there's Portobello PR who advise me on certain things and help acquire sponsorship so together everything works well. We are looking to do big things in the sport. Everyone has their role meaning I am able to just concentrate solely on the fighting side of things."
Dida's confidence in his own abilities and his team is clear for all to see and he admits that he expects to win a British title in the near future.
His debut came in April against the experienced Lewis van Poetsch and enjoyed by the hundred-odd spectators in attendance. The ticket seller admits he felt he showed a good range of his capabilities that night in the squared circle.
“I was obviously nervous before going in there, this is a moment you have waited maybe your whole life for,” he states. “I controlled the pace, followed the game plan and got the victory. Everyone knows Lewis and it was great to share a ring with him.
“You can tell he's so experienced, he was able to disrupt the rhythm of the fight, but I always try to keep calm and cool whilst I am I in there so I had to put it into practise.
“When you get the win – although I expected it – the buzz was incredible. I did a lot of tickets for the fight, I am lucky to have a growing fanbase that follow me. The adrenaline rush from the fight was something else, it was years of hard work and dedication into one moment.”
Dida clearly has a lot of time for the interview process' without wanting to take up any more of his time than was necessary, I gave him a way out of the conversation. He reassured me in a refreshing fashion that he has time to carry on. He also understands the need for exposure as he builds his reputation, citing his idols as, unsurprisingly, Krasniqi and former middleweight king Gennady Golovkin.
“I think it's key to be humble and grateful for the opportunities we are given,” Dida adds. "I love the way Krasniqi carried himself outside of the ring, he was a role model. In the ring, his style and technique was obviously what caught my eye.
“In the modern game I look towards GGG, I think he is very similar to Luan [Krasniqi], his footwork is impeccable and I love the way he closes down the space on opponents.
“More importantly they come across as good people, that is why I look up to them.”
Ermal Dida fights on 30 November in Bedford on a homecoming show. For tickets, contact him through his social media channels: Instagram: @ermaldidaboxing | Facebook: Ermal Dida Boxing | Website: didaboxing.weebly.com