'I can’t let this distract me': Kash Farooq

Shaun Brown
19/03/2020 10:57pm

The date of his next fight is now uncertain due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but Kash Farooq tells Shaun Brown he is staying focused and disciplined...

Last weekend former British bantamweight champion Kash Farooq (13-1, 6 KOs) still had a fight date for his first bout of 2020.

Farooq, who last fought in November 2019 against Lee McGregor, was scheduled to be fighting in Newcastle on the Lewis Ritson-Miguel Vazquez undercard on 4 April which was to be televised on Sky Sports.

On Tuesday Farooq’s new promoter Eddie Hearn took to social media to tell everyone that his next three shows were to be rescheduled, with some fights landing on other cards in the future, while the United Kingdom gets to grips with the life changing circumstances brought by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic which has brought sport in the UK to a halt.

Prior to the show’s call-off Farooq was still training, not taking his eye off the ball, hoping that something could be resolved to allow him to fight in Newcastle in what was to be a ten-round title fight.

The Pakistani-born 24-year-old, who lives in Glasgow, was well aware, however, of what could transpire in the days ahead.

“This is not really helping at the moment because your mind’s all over the place but I’ve got to act as a professional and keep my head down and train away. I can’t let this distract me,” Farooq told Boxing Monthly during an interview last Saturday.

“I’m in the gym all year round. But having to go through the camp again, going through the diet again, it messes the routine up a bit. Your mindset is on that date. It changes things up but whatever happens I’ve got to go with it.”

Farooq trained over Christmas, New Year and his birthday as is the norm for him in any year. Diligence, talent and professionalism were just some of the attributes that earned him the British 118lbs title outright after defending it successfully three times which culminated in a one-round knockout of Duane Winters last August.

Then came the fight against McGregor.

It was an all-Scottish affair pitting Glasgow (represented by Farooq) against Edinburgh (represented by McGregor) in a pulsating duel with a relentless pace that rarely let up as the pair launched everything at one another, landing or not, which took them the distance but ultimately saw McGregor come out on top in controversial manner.

The Commonwealth champion took home the British title after scores of 113-114, 114-113 and 112-115 went in his favour which included a point being deducted for the new champion in the tenth round for holding. For some, the result left a bitter taste in the mouths of fans regardless of where they were from.

It wasn’t long before Farooq dusted himself down and got going again.

“I never took it to heart,” he says.

“I went back to training a week later and that was it. In boxing you’re going to get things like that. I might get one [fight] in my favour, I might get robbed… it’s been like that in boxing for years. It is what it is. You’ve just got to keep on moving forward and keep pushing and keep your head and keep working hard. That was my main aim. I couldn’t let it get me down. Back in the gym working hard a week later and that’s what it’s all about for me.”

Water off a duck’s back then it seems for a man who then signed a three-fight deal with Matchroom Boxing a month after his loss to McGregor. His manager Ian Wilson told him not to worry, something would be sorted and there would be no returning to small hall shows which had been a concern for Farooq.

“I was worried,” he says. “As a fighter the mindset is back to the drawing board starting again and because I’ve not got a title on me it’s back to working my way up but my manager told me not to worry. He got me a good deal with Eddie Hearn and I’m over the moon with that.”

“It was a dream,” he says of penning a deal with Matchroom. “This is what you want. After I got beat ideally a guy on my platform would go back to small hall shows. I think it was my performance [against McGregor] because it showed I’m a real threat at the weight and I’m going to add to that and that’s what brought me to Eddie’s attention. Eddie came and gave me a lifeline and an opportunity. It’s a blessing in disguise for me. Really, really happy and I hope 2020 can be a great year for me.”

Farooq was aiming for three to four fights this year with titles on the line more often than not but things have changed outside of boxing and who knows when normality will return to our lives again. One thing that won’t change is Farooq’s interest in a rematch with McGregor. After the display that both men put on and the furore over the decision it seems like the rematch should happen at some point in their careers, hopefully sooner rather than later.

“It’s a big fight,” says of the rematch. “The publicity me and McGregor got from that fight was great. He can box anywhere else in the world or in the U.K and he won’t get the same publicity he would get from boxing me and that’s the same for me as well. It’s two Scottish fighters and you want that type of backing and it would be a really good fight again.”

For all the talk of what the fighters and fans would like in the future it is simply a case of waiting, watching and wondering when everyone can return to their jobs and life as they knew it. And in the case of some professional fighters they have to fight to live.

Some, who are not in the top echelons of the sport, may have to return to normal employment while they wait on another fight date. Cancellations have seen fighters take to social media, upset and frustrated that their livelihood will take a hit. Popular ticket sellers now need to arrange refunds and hope that sponsors come through for them or something else crops up in the meantime.

“If you don’t fight you don’t get paid, simple as that, says Farooq. “And that’s the way we make our income. And the money you spend on training, travelling up and down the country, food, it’s not cheap. You can imagine how much it costs us.”