Nothing has come easily for Ryan Farrag.
Training hard day in and day out and waiting for a break in what used to be one of British boxing’s more unfashionable divisions, the bantamweight would get home after another days grind, relax in his Liverpool home and realise that there was something missing.
Ultimately it dawned on Farrag that he would have to travel to Europe to get that that he had always wanted and finally, he found what he had been searching for far away from his beloved hometown. The initial joy that success brings tempered by the realisation that the hard work had only just begun.
Farrag’s journey back hasn’t been easy. It was drawn out and extremely frustrating but finally, after a long, hard, and at times agonising struggle, Farrag got Reece the sausage dog home from Ibiza.
“I went over to Ibiza to get him,” Farrag, 28, laughed when asked about his new family member by Britishboxers.co.uk. “My friend has them over there. I got the boat over from Ibiza to Barcelona and then we got the train from Barcelona through France, all the way up to Belgium and in to Holland. We ended up in Rotterdam. I had to leave him in Amsterdam for three weeks while he waited for his passport and then I went back and brought him home. They’re all named after chocolate so we called him Reece [after the delicious Reece’s Pieces].”
He added: “It was hard work but he’s worth it! It was a good little trip.”
As well as spending the endless hours on planes, trains and automobiles reading the Miniature Daschund owners guide, Farrag (16-2, 4KO’s) probably wondered exactly where his career would take him next.
An exciting war monger during his early career, he morphed into a genuine box-fighter. With opportunities restricted in Britain, Farrag rolled the dice and travelled to Belgium for a vacant European title fight with Stephane Jamoye. He reverted to type during a back and forth brawl to knock the hometown favourite out but got dragged into another gun fight in his first defence and Karim Guerfi relieved him of his prized belt in three exciting rounds. This weekend, Farrag fights the unbeaten Ryan Burnett for the British bantamweight title at Liverpool’s Echo Arena and he can’t help feeling that he is being overlooked.
The bookies have got me at 4-1 to win. That’s great because all the pressure is on Ryan I suppose. I don’t know who came up with those odds but they’ve got it all wrong. I’ve told all my mates, they’ll all be having a few quid I suppose.
“I think I’ll stop him late to be honest. That’s the thought I’ve got in the back of my mind. To be honest, I’ll take a points win if I have to but with it being on a Matchroom bill, I want to stop him. I don’t want to leave it to the judges. I know I’m not fighting away from home, but I am fighting on his promoter’s bill so I have got to factor that in. I don’t want to leave it in the hands of the judges.
“I’m going in there to win as clearly as possible. I don’t think he’ll be able to handle my strength and I think I’ll stop him late on.”
Burnett is one of British boxing’s most promising fighters. Since beginning work with Adam Booth, the Northern Irishman has been calculating and accurate. Critics might point to three consecutive distance fights and suggest that they point to a lack of firepower, but Burnett has gathered plenty of championship experience.
Booth’s fighters have a reputation for being wary and clever but there are occasions when he senses the time is right to send his man out to be aggressive from the opening bell. There is the possibility that having seen his wars with Jamoye and Guerffi, Burnett and Booth feel that they may be able to get to Farrag hard and early.
“They might possibly do that,” Farrag said. “It’s something that we’ve thought about. We’ve had some great sparring with both types of opponent. We’ve had some tough sparring and some technical sparring so whatever he comes out with on the night, we’ll be ready for him.
I think it’s just a case of the opposition he’s been fighting [in regard to Burnett’s recent run of decisions]. When you fight a lower level of opposition, you don’t have to up your game. He’s hasn’t really boxed anybody so he hasn’t had to up his game. When you don’t get tested you become stale and you get used to fighting those kind of opponents. It’s not good for you really. You need tests, you need to be stepping up.
“As I said, I think this is a little bit of a jump too big for him. I’m looking forward to getting in and fighting for the British title on Saturday night. I’m going to win it.”
A Farrag win would get the Everton Red Triangle gym back on the title trail. The unheralded gym enjoyed a purple patch with Kevin Satchell, Jazza Dickens and Farrag claiming major belts but 2016 has been more heavy going. As well as Farrag’s European title defeat, Satchell has been inactive and Dickens went through the ultimately disappointing Guillermo Rigondeaux saga. The morale in the happy gym hasn’t been adversely affected, however. The kettle is still on constant boil in fight night dressing rooms and as well as a new sausage dog making regular appearances, the day to day routine has been livened up by the arrival of Johnny Quigley and the talented Brandon Daord’s decision to turn professional.
“All fighters have their ups and downs,” said Farrag. “It’ll be great to bring a British title back to the gym. Whenever one of the lads brings a new belt into the gym it’s good for the morale. Everybody sees it and it picks everybody up. It’ll be good for the gym.”