Team GB Exclusive: Rising star Ali ready for Baku challenge

Team GB Exclusive: Rising star Ali ready for Baku challenge

24 May 2015 / 12:05

Muhammad Ali has only had a handful of senior fights but admits experience will be no excuse for failing to perform in Baku next month.

Ali secured Team GB's flyweight selection for the forthcoming European Games, where he hopes to underline his rising star status and, possibly, mark selectors' cards on the road to Rio.

Although still just 18, he is no stranger to competing for Team GB, having been part of the boxing team at the 2014 Youth Olympics in Nanjing, where he claimed bronze after less than ideal preparations.

And he admits his quick graduation to the senior ranks, considering the strength and depth of talent in British boxing, has caught him by surprise.

However, he insists nerves will not be a problem, which will be just as well considering Azerbaijan is boxing mad and the sport remains the hottest ticket at the inaugural Games.

"When I was starting out I didn’t expect to achieve half as much as I already have, now I am focused on getting the big wins," Ali told

"I’m just going to be very excited when it comes round to competing in Baku but I don’t tend to get nervous in the ring.

"I’ve boxed on big stages before like the Youth Olympics and European competitions, but this will be the biggest and I think it will bring the best out of me.

"I got gold at the Europeans and silver at the World Junior Championships – I know what it takes to deliver when the pressure is really on."

British boxers have fond memories of Baku, which staged the World Championships four years ago.

Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua both claimed silvers that they then upgraded to golds one year later at London 2012 and Ali is hoping for similar success.

Andrew Selby also took silver at the same event and is currently ranked world number two in Ali's flyweight category, underlining that future battles will be also be closer to home.

"I have only been in the British squad for a little while, so I'm realistic," adds Ali, who started his boxing career seven years ago as a stick-thin 11-year old and won this weekend's Elite Three Nations Championships.

"I’ve only had a few senior fights but I have got a chance of building on that in Baku. Hopefully I can win that competition, but it will be a lot of hard work.

"I'm full of confidence right now. I’m in good form but I need to keep training hard. It should be great experience to fight against older competitors. I need to take every fight as it comes but it is not easy fighting every day.

"I will be one of the youngest there, so I’ve no doubt it will be a challenge. But it is an achievement for me to have qualified at this age. I'm ready to show the boxers that, while they may be older than me, I can mix it with them and compete at this level."

By Luke Baker, Sportsbeat

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Muhammad Ali