News

April 30, 2020

Hello, My Name Is… Muhammad Ali – and I’m a boxer

When you’re a boxer called Muhammad Ali, everyone thinks you’ve chosen the name – but in my case, it’s just a happy coincidence.

My parents don’t even like boxing and there is zero history of anyone in my family taking up the sport.

Although Mum and Dad didn’t make the connection, everyone else did. From as early as I can remember, people would ask me if I boxed.

I thought, ‘wow, I’m named after a legend, I have some expectations to live up to’.

I would chat to my mum about it and she’d say that she wanted me nowhere near the ring – but I’m definitely a boxer today because of the name they gave me.

My name got me interested in the sport but it was watching a live fight that got me hooked.

When I was around 12 or 13 my dad took me and my brother to see Ricky Hatton fight at Manchester Arena after we asked him to.

I watched and was amazed. He brought the whole country to standstill and I knew I wanted that for myself.

That was a Saturday night and I went to the gym the following Monday for my first lesson. I could smell the blood, sweat and tears. I could smell the old leather gloves. I wanted it.

I got into the ring and was immediately smacked on the nose and although it hurt, it felt good. I thought, ‘I’m going to get him back bad for that’.

So I went again two days later.

My dad had always said no boxing, but me and my brother managed to win my mum over and she would sneak us to the gym without him catching on.

Dad had no idea until a few weeks later when my coach said he thought I was good enough to become a professional boxer and needed both my parents’ consent before I could fight competitively.

He was mad but I managed to get him to come into the gym and watch me box. Dad didn’t enjoy it but realised I actually wasn’t half bad and let me crack on with it.

I had my first fight at 17 and I won by knockout in the first minute of the first round. My second fight also resulted in a knockout.

It was nice to finally be able to answer the standard ‘Are you a boxer?’ question with, ‘Yes, I am’.

I wasn’t worried going into the ring at all. I knew I was good enough so it was just like another day in the gym.

My dad came to watch and I joked to the other fighters that they should keep an eye on him in case he had a heart attack.

When I got my knockout and the fight was over, Dad had no idea what had happened – other people watching had to explain what was going on!

At those early fights, I got used to people pointing at me when I walked in and they clocked that I shared a name with the world’s greatest boxer.

Now, I like to think people are recognising me in my own right.

I’m from Rochdale but I’ve been stopped by people in Bradford and Manchester, asking for photos. One time after a fight, I went into a restaurant with my family and the server recognised me and gave us our meal for free!

It’s moments like that that make me think, ‘Am I actually famous?’ It’s also great to be able to share them with my mum and dad as it makes them really happy.

My parents may dislike the sport but I know they’re proud of how I use my platform.

Muhammad Ali was certainly as famous for what he did inside the ring as outside of it. I like to think I’m following in his footsteps in this way too.

I’m the first professional diabetic boxer and I am proud to represent my community and advocate for us in my role as sports ambassador to Diabetes UK. I want to inspire others.

I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was five years old and I have never let it hold me back.

Unfortunately, when I first decided I wanted to be a boxer, the governing body had other ideas.

I had to fight for my license, which I needed to box professionally. Even though my doctors had said it was OK, it took me over two years to get it. I didn’t give up because I knew one day I would get my chance to fight and become a legend.

I’ve created history once in becoming the first diabetic boxer, and now I want to be the first diabetic world champion. In doing so I’ll be standing up for others with the condition, as well as myself.

Every day I get people sending me messages from all around the world telling me I’m an inspiration to them, which feels crazy. Some people have even invited me to the US to come and stay with them.

I feel fortunate to be the first boxer with diabetes because it allows me to be a role model to others, but I also think it’s helped me stand out a little.

Especially as there’s a few other boxers called Muhammad Ali!

When you have this name, spectators expect a bit more from you and there’s a pressure to perform.

They want to see me do something in the ring that they’ve never seen before, just because of the name.

I hear a lot of, ‘Let’s see if he really is Muhammad Ali’.

People laugh at you when you do badly, but I don’t let mixed reviews dishearten me. I didn’t choose the name – I am my own man and my own boxer.

Regardless of the feedback, I want people to be honest about how I perform. I love the competition and I want to be the best. To be honest, I get more comments saying I do deserve to have the same name as him!

He will always be an inspiration to me, but I haven’t shaped my career around Muhammad Ali’s legacy. I’ve tried to watch a couple of his fights but really struggle with the old footage!

I would rather be unique than mimic someone else.

When he died, I was on holiday in Dubai. The whole city came to a standstill and it felt like everyone was talking about him. My dad rang me from the UK to tell me it was exactly the same case back home.

It showed me how much Muhammad Ali meant to people and I feel privileged to share a name and profession with such a legend.

You can follow Muhammad on Instagram and on his website

Source: Hello, My Name Is… Muhammad Ali – and I’m a boxer