Flyweight boxer Muhammad Ali made sure to blow the cobwebs away in style in Baku, feeding off the energy of the crowd to progress into the last 16 at the European Games.
Ali, a bronze medallist at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, was the first of the British boxing contingent to take to the ring in Azerbaijan, where he faced Moldovan opponent Alexandr Riscan.
And he made sure to get Team GB off to a winning start, racking up a 3-0 victory over his opponent, with the watching supporters showing their appreciation with chants of ‘Ali, Ali, Ali.’
Next up is 31-year-old Italian Vincenzo Picardo for a place in the quarter-finals, with Ali content with his form so far.
“It was important to get off to a winning start. My first fight was just about getting in there, getting rid of any rust because we have been here for a week now," he said.
“I could hear the crowd cheering from me. I thought it would only be the GB team, but the rest were as well. I think my style helps as well. I'm all action and throw a lot of shots, so I think people enjoy it.
“I knew he would start fast. I have watched his videos and it was about getting through the first round. I wanted to assert myself and make sure he didn't get everything his own way, and I thought I did that.”
Ali will take a backseat for a few days until his next fight on Saturday, with tomorrow instead seeing bantamweight Qais Ashfaq open his campaign against Giorgi Gogatishvili of Georgia and Joshua Buatsi take on home favourite Teymur Mammadov in the light heavyweight round of 32.
Although young fighter Ali admits he will be more than ready for his next fight come the weekend.
“I have to wait until Saturday now for round two. It is going to be a long wait, but this has stood me in good stead,” he added.
“I might be 18, but I'm strong for my age. So I will make sure I assert myself in the next round and that my opponent knows he is in for a good fight.”
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