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Galal Yafai delighted to have Rob McCracken in his corner on a big night

The Tokyo 2020 gold medal winner makes his professional debut this weekend.

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Galal Yafai will make his professional debut on Sunday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Galal Yafai will make his professional debut on Sunday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Galal Yafai will make his professional debut on Sunday (Mike Egerton/PA)

Galal Yafai waved goodbye to Team GB after winning Olympic gold last year but he will have a familiar face in the corner for his professional debut this weekend following his appointment of Rob McCracken as trainer.

Yafai, the youngest of three fighting brothers, was hot property after topping the podium in the flyweight category at Tokyo 2020 but he has decided to continue under the tutelage of Team GB’s long-time performance director.

The esteemed McCracken, who oversaw Carl Froch’s career and is in limbo as to his role with Anthony Joshua, at least publicly, is a welcome addition to Yafai’s camp as he looks to back up his amateur success in the paid ranks.

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Rob McCracken, pictured, will be in Galal Yafai’s corner on Sunday (Tim Goode/PA)

Rob McCracken, pictured, will be in Galal Yafai’s corner on Sunday (Tim Goode/PA)

PA

Rob McCracken, pictured, will be in Galal Yafai’s corner on Sunday (Tim Goode/PA)

“He’s a great trainer, we get along very well and he knows me inside out,” Yafai told the PA news agency. “Boxing at the EIS (English Institute Of Sport, Sheffield, Team GB’s boxing headquarters) got me to being Olympic champion.

“Rob’s a great coach and he’s done great things in the past with other fighters and he’s doing great things with me now so hopefully I can put it all into my fights and show what I’ve been doing.

“I just think being an Olympic champion I needed one of the best coaches in the world, a top coach. For me personally I think Rob is. It was a great fit.”

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Yafai, 29, has made his intentions clear at this level after agreeing to a 10-round introductory bout and while Carlos Vado is lightly-regarded, the Mexican has collected 10 wins from 15 contests and has never been stopped.

It is quite the step up for Yafai, who is more acquainted with three-rounders in the amateur code, but he is ready to take the plunge on the undercard of Lawrence Okolie’s WBO cruiserweight title defence against Michal Cieslak at the O2 Arena.

Being Olympic champion is a great feeling but it doesn't mean anything now as a pro.Galal Yafai

“I don’t really want to waste any time,” Yafai added. “I’m 29, I’m Olympic champion, I’m good enough to mix it with these guys. I’m fit enough so I just think ‘why not?’

“I know what I’m capable of doing in the boxing ring and I’m sure I’ll show that on Sunday.”

Winning Olympic gold puts Yafai in the spotlight but he is confident he can handle the expectation as he admitted capturing world honours is his ultimate ambition in the months and years ahead.

“If you win Olympic gold I think you’re almost expected to be a world champion,” Yafai said. “Hopefully I can do that. Does it mean I’m going to become a world champion because I’m Olympic champion? Not at all.

“I’ve got to go in there and earn it and show how good I am. Being Olympic champion is a great feeling but it doesn’t mean anything now as a pro.

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Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight title at the O2 Arena (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight title at the O2 Arena (Zac Goodwin/PA)

PA

Lawrence Okolie defends his WBO cruiserweight title at the O2 Arena (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“Olympic gold is done. I’ll look back on that after my career, when I’m 50 or 60 years old I can say ‘I was the Olympic champion’, I just hope I can say ‘I was Olympic and world champion as a pro’.”

Yafai’s path might be helped by the wisdom of siblings Kal, a former WBA super-flyweight champion, and Gamal, who was deposed as European super-bantamweight titlist last year.

“They’re always giving me advice,” the youngest Yafai added. “Even though there’s not that much of a gap between us in age, I’m still the younger brother so they’re always a bit cautious – they’ll watch my opponent or they’ll say ‘you’re doing that wrong’ or ‘you need to do that on fight night’.

“All the mistakes they’ve made they can pass on to me. We’re close as brothers and we all love each other.

“If I’m in a fight they’re going to support me but it’s good because it just makes me feel better, them being around in fight week has put me at ease a bit more.”


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