OLYMPIC Champion Galal Yafai has boxed in London (twice), New York and The United Arab Emirates since turning over and he’s back home this weekend. Eddie Hearn takes the DAZN cameras to the Utilita Arena in Birmingham where Yafai tops the bill against Tommy Frank, the former British flyweight and Commonwealth super-flyweight champion from Sheffield.
Yafai reckons this will be his first outing in his home city for around a decade.
The 30-year-old southpaw is a product of Birmingham City ABC and head coach Frank O’Sullivan MBE. O’Sullivan, who also trained big brothers Kal and Gamal, had to convince Yafai to stick with boxing around a decade ago as he struggled to find the time for training around his job.
O’Sullivan told Yafai he could become an Olympian. He qualified for the 2016 Olympics by winning his 26th bout and after missing out on a medal in Rio, Yafai took flyweight gold in Tokyo.
Yafai, 4-0 (3), now looks to be settling into the pros. The Yafai we saw beat Mexican veteran Moises Calleros in April was different to the Yafai of his first three fights.
On his pro debut, in February 2022, he ate a few counters from non-punching Mexican Carlos Bautista before getting the stoppage and then unloaded on Miguel Cartagena for six minutes until the Philadelphian retired.
There appears to have been a rethink after Yafai was taken to a 10-round split by Gohan Rodriguez Garcia last November. To most ringsiders, he won clearly over 10, but there wasn’t much in it on the scorecards. Yafai won a split after two judges had him up by one and two rounds and the other had him losing by one.
The cards were proof Yafai had taken too many and last time out, in April, he slowed down, picked his shots and thought rather more about what was coming back at him. He kept his hands up and edged in and out with his feet, rather than always staying in punching range.
Calleros was game, but Yafai unravelled him in four.
Frank, 15-3-1 (3), is coming off a loss, Swansea’s Jay Harris taking away the British title with a 10th round stoppage in May. Frank appears to have found his level.
There had been talk of him fighting Sunny Edwards – now on Yafai’s radar – until he twice lost to Rosendo Guarneros, a Mexican schooled by Edwards.
Craig Derbyshire, the 8-28-3 Yorkshireman who he had previously beaten, held him to a draw in a British title defence and Frank goes into Saturday with two wins and a draw from his last six.
He’s known to be tight at 112lbs and has struggled with opponents who fight at a high pace. We may see a return to the whirlwind Yafai, but however he approaches the job, expect Yafai to win by stoppage in the second half.
Solomon Dacres, 6-0 (2), is another coming home – he’s from Bearwood – and he goes into his 10-rounder against South African lefty Chris Thompson, 12-4-1 (7), as the English heavyweight champion.
Dacres, who’s been troubled by a shoulder injury since turning over after being part of the Great Britain amateur squad, won the vacant belt by stopping Robert Ismay in March in two, picking his shots well after shaking up the Geordie. Thompson, who’s lost his last two, may last the full 10.
The welterweight 10-rounder between Alnwick southpaw Cyrus Pattinson, 6-0 (4), and Conah Walker, 11-2-1 (3), should be fun.
Walker is from Wolverhampton and is sure to have plenty of support, but he’s coming off a loss down at 140lbs and Pattinson posted a career best win last time out, stopping former British and Commonwealth champion Chris Jenkins in the ninth of a fight-of-the-year contender.
That was only Pattinson’s sixth fight and proved he has the mettle for the pros after serving his amateur apprenticeship with Birtley Boys and Great Britain. Walker is an honest pro who’s won Midlands honours at 147lbs and pushed Samuel Antwi hard over 10 for the St George’s belt.
He got down to 140lbs for his last fight and was outpointed over eight by Manchester’s mobile Kane Gardner. Pattinson’s come forward-style will suit him more, but Cyrus looks too strong and can win on points.
Another scheduled 10-rounder sees Oxford’s Jordan Flynn, 9-0 (1) take on local stalwart, the 19-10-1 (1) Kane Baker at super-featherweight. The pair fought before, with Flynn taking a close decision after eight in April. Flynn can show what he learned and win more comfortably on points.
THE VERDICT – Yafai and Frank look like they’re going in opposite directions.