Smithy column: The time has come for Kid Galahad to turn the boxing pecking order upside down by beating Josh Warrington
It doesn’t matter what Josh Warrington calls him, Abdul-Bari Awad is a man with a point to prove.
Back in 2009, as an 18-year-old, he sat with his siblings, mother and grandparents in their Upperthorpe flat and told The Star of his desire to make boxing his escape from the local gang culture.
Some of his friends were already in prison or dead.
Boxing, the Ingle family and determination got him away from all that only for a positive for steroids in 2014 to upend his career. Despite protests of innocence and sabotage he was banned for 18 months.
Now he has chance to step back to where he always believed he should be. On June 15 he faces hometown boy Josh Warrington for the IBF featherweight crown at Leeds Arena. He’ll be the underdog in a bear-pit atmosphere. But he’s overcome worse and flourished.
His time has come.
*Nowadays such boldness is passé, back in 1963 it was a different world.
A month before a man called Cassius Clay came to proclaim himself ‘the greatest’ another, smaller man of a different race and generation made a similarly outrageous statement, if a little more conservatively.
‘We will win the World Cup in 1966,’ said Alf Ramsey as he became manager in May 1963. By then ‘the 60s’ were kicking-off - the Beatles had their first number one football crowds were singing about Christine Keeler and Harold Wilson was cool.
Now, 50-odd years later, everyone has a big mouth and a platform and it takes something different to be noticed. How about a waistcoat, a modest manner and a team playing the best football since Gazza and Shearer?
England will win a major football tournament before 2026, maybe more than one. Alf would have spotted it two years ago.
Half a century on from Banks and the Bobbys, Gareth Southgate’s team and philosophy similarly has pace, style, aggression and 22 players waiting to step in to the first eleven’s coveted shoes.
A golden age approaches.
We’ve heard it all before and it went horribly average.
This time belief is based on energy, quality and tournament-winning youth teams.
Ironically the 2022 World Cup - awarded to alcohol-free Quatar, with its slave labour allegations and 120 degree-heat - should have been held in England.
But no matter.
The time and this team are right.