You can't fight passion: Umar Sadiq interview
Ahead of his second pro bout on Saturday, Nigerian-born super middle Umar Sadiq speaks to Shaun Brown about the forces that brought him back to boxing...
Umar Sadiq was out shopping for aubergines when Boxing Monthly spoke to him recently.
Shopping is a normal every day necessity for all of us. Being an accountant, as Umar (and Juan Manuel Marquez) once was, is a normal every day job.
Being a professional boxer is not normal.
You can't fight passion, however. You can listen to your head but sometimes the heart wants what it wants.
The two-time Haringey Box Cup winner - a feat achieved by Anthony Joshua as an amateur - had, however, fallen out of love with the sport after "dodgy decisions" had taken the wind out of his sails given the sacrifices he had made.
"Why would I want to put myself in a position for the rest of my life where I do my bit, and make all the sacrifice, for someone to just decide, actually we don't fancy playing the rules of hard work?" Sadiq said, recalling a time where he chose to move on from the sport.
"I went about trying to set my discipline in other areas knowing that I'll be successful in whatever I do, but then you can't deny passion really, and I ended up falling back into boxing."
Years later Sadiq would return to boxing as a way to keep fit. An offer of a fight at short notice, still as an amateur, would prove too difficult to say no to. A small stride step turned into a massive leap when the Nigerian born 30-year-old super middleweight found himself back home and in the midst of trying out for a spot in the 2016 Rio Olympics. A turning point, if ever there was one, for Sadiq.
"Whilst I was in the Olympic camp over there, being in camp in another country, boxing's all I had. Sleep, eat, box, repeat... just going through the process, and it reminded me how much I do love the sport and it was from then it all started coming back.
"Doing that training camp for the African qualifiers I fell in love with the sport again. I decided then that, regardless of what happened, I was going to turn professional because my heart was in it and I wanted to do it properly."
Last summer the doing it "properly" began in earnest when the Ilford man signed for Frank Warren. A 40-36 points victory in his professional debut against Lewis van Poetsch, who was having his sixth fight of the year that September and would go on to have nine more before the year's end, was described as 'a good experience' by Sadiq when he spoke to iFL TV post-fight in the dressing rooms.
"It was just a reminder that being ready means you can deliver," Sadiq eloquently told BM of that night at the Copper Box.
"But also that hard work and self-belief pays off because when I first started out, with the intention of turning professional, a lot of people that are supposed to know a lot about boxing give me a lot of opinions as to who I should sign with and on what terms. Even though I listened to everyone's advice I still carried on with expectations to do things in the way that I should have them."
Sadiq's second outing comes this Saturday night back at the York Hall, where he fought as an amateur, in another four-rounder. It is one of many fights, Sadiq hopes, that will be made for him in 2018 leaving him by the end of these 12 months with his apprenticeship fulfilled.
Having locked horns with Joshua Buatsi (now a friend of Sadiq's) in the 2012 London ABA finals, and having sparred the likes of James DeGale and Billy Joe Saunders, Sadiq has unshakeable confidence that he will become a world champion.
It's an attitude and a belief that is equalled and perhaps reinforced by the fact that he has just turned 30. knowing that time may be as tough an opponent as the men he's about to face in the coming months and years.
"The three-year plan starts with having a good six to eight fights this year. Because of my age I am in a rush," he admitted.
"To basically get as much experience as quickly as possible so I'm comfortable in every aspect of the game. How to pace myself in training camp, how to conduct myself when I'm in the changing room, how to soak up the atmosphere when I walk out to the ring, pacing myself during a fight. All these things, I think, will come from frequency.
"Once I've served my apprenticeship this year I'll confidently take on anybody. Whoever is at the top when I'm there, I'm willing to take the opportunity to fight them and do a number on them."