Under the radar Farrag aiming high
2015 was a fine year for British boxing. So good, in fact, that - when the annual gongs were handed out - Ryan Farrag’s thrilling stoppage of Stephane Jamoye to claim the European bantamweight title barely earned a mention. In any other year, the Liverpudlian’s against the odds knockout victory would have gained much more attention.
“I don’t mind that it’s happened this way. This is my journey, isn’t it?” Farrag told Boxing Monthly. “I’m not gonna moan about it and I don’t mind being underrated and coming in under the radar. A lot of my fights haven’t been televised and I’ve only really stopped my last few fights early. The fights with Jason Booth [WTKO4] and Ashley Lane [a Seventh round TKO for the English title] were televised but the Jamoye fight wasn’t shown anywhere. If a lot of people had seen that it would have been good but they never. I’m just gonna have to make sure I put in a performance the next time out.”
Months of boxing politics meant that Farrag (14-1, 3KOs) was forced to cancel initial plans for a hometown title challenge and instead travel to Jamoye’s hometown of Liege to contest the vacant belt last October. Once the 27-year-old finally got Jamoye in the ring, he spent the following nine rounds taking out his frustration on the former European champion and world title challenger. The occasion brought out the best in the Scouser. He may have entered the fight as a sizeable underdog but Farrag showed that he had finally adapted fully to the professional side of the sport. Rather than crushing him, the pressure of the situation elevated his performance to a new level. It was a far cry from his early career when Farrag used to transform into a one-man riot when the first bell rung.
“I think the most important factor is being calm in the ring and just being ‘on it’ on the night. A lot of factors come into it but it’s easier to set up a good fighter to counter them than it is a journeyman. A journeyman just stays tight and doesn’t really wanna come out,” said Farrag.
“Back then [around the time of an early career forray into Prizefighter which saw him engage in World War 3 with Craig Lyon], I was a raw novice in the pro game. I still had all the skills I have now back then but the occasion would get to me. Sometimes I’d still perform - luckily - but you’ve just gotta be calm on the night and know what you’re doing. The lads from the Everton Red Triangle gym [Kevin Satchell, Jazza Dickens, Ste Lewis] were the first fighters from the gym to turn professional so we’ve all been there. It takes time in anything to become successful. Look at me, it’s taken four or five years to get the European title. I want the fights coming in quickly now. I don’t wanna be 40 years old making 8st 6lbs!”
Not one to rest on his laurels, Farrag has been back in the gym and had just finished defrosting after a Christmas tradition when BM caught up with him. He will fight in an eight-rounder on the undercard of Terry Flanagan’s WBO lightweight title defence against Derry Mathews on 13 February to keep his eye in but will then be looking for a big fight.
“We never really have no time off over Christmas. We do an annual Boxing Day run down Crosby beach every year [with his teammates from the ERT] so I haven’t had any time off. It was a good day out. There were loads of family joining in and getting in the sea! I’ve just been in the gym really though,” said Farrag. “We’re gonna sit down and have a chat about what’s gonna happen. If my team say to me that I’ve got a European title defence, I’ll do that. I wouldn’t mind defending my belt a couple of times. Obviously, if a better fight came up - and for a better belt - I’d want to go for that. Of course, I would. Winning that Jamoye fight has put me right in at European level and there’s only one direction to go on from there. I wouldn’t mind being involved in a few of those bigger fights in the very near future.”
Farrag’s stunning performance in Belgium was his lone appearance in 2015 but he will be hoping to capitalise on his new status and push on in 2016. Despite a recent tête-à-tête on Twitter, that means there are no immediate plans for a double title showdown with new British champion, Ryan Burnett. Instead, Farrag has his eye on the leading lights of the British bantamweight class: WBA belt holder Jamie McDonnell and IBF king Lee Haskins [who Farrag dropped a decision to in that aforementioned Prizefighter tournament].
“I was talking about this to a mate earlier and, until Burnett get’s a belt bigger than the belt that I’ve got now, the fight won’t happen. I’m not looking back until I’m number one. I’m looking at the fighters who are ahead of me and those are the fights I want. Until he gets a better belt, I’m not interested.
“I’m happy to be here with a title now and I’m looking forward to 2016. There are definitely some good fights to be made in the division. McDonnell and Haskins have world titles now and they’re the type of fights I’m looking at. I saw on Twitter that Stuart Hall has a final eliminator for the IBF title [in Leeds on 16 April]. In my opinion, Hall’s getting on a little bit now. If he gets a fight for the belt, I hope he wins it. If I got a shot, I’d definitely back myself to win that fight.”