By Oliver McManus @OliverGMcManus
Not satisfied with merely possessing the greatest nickname in small hall boxing, Ramez ‘The Mathemagician’ Mahmood will look to collect the first title of his career on September 7th when he faces Jack Budge for the vacant Southern Area featherweight belt. I started off by asking how he was feeling with just two weeks to go until fight night.
“I’m feeling great so far”, any other answer would be a surprise, “and usually at this stage in the training camp I get quite restless and irritable because I’m trying to make weight and everything but I’ve not had any of that stress for this fight. I was always looking towards super bantamweight but taking this opportunity at featherweight has made it a lot easier for me and obviously it being the school summer holidays means I can concentrate a lot more on boxing – I’ve not got any marking I need to do!”
As if his ring nickname wasn’t enough of a clue, Mahmood is a maths teacher by trade and has benefitted from a camp that coincides with summer holidays.
“The main difference is just the time I’ve had to rest and time to myself. The training is probably the same level of intensity but I’m not having to squeeze it in; I’ve got that time to myself and I’m sleeping a lot better, everything is at a better pace. I’m not sure (what weight) I’ll go to the ring at as it’s my first day before weigh-in but I really am looking forward to it and it’s perfect timing (having the fight the week before school starts) as I’ve been able to have a proper camp.”
I can concentrate a lot more on boxing – I’ve not got any marking I need to do.
The fighter across the ring from Mahmood will be a friendly face from the past, though by no means familiar, and a rare chance for the 25 year old to face a foe younger than him. Budge, 24 years old, is only the second opponent to come into the bout less experienced than Mahmood and that is something playing into the hands of the home fighter who told me he felt he had matured exponentially since making his debut.
“When I box my opponents, they are generally a lot older than me, I don’t feel as though they are stronger than me or even that their wiser than me. I think I’m maturing at a quick rate and I just focus on myself when I’m in the ring – I know a bit about Jack (Budge) because we’ve known each other from the amateur days and we’d always wish each other well. In the same respect he’ll know as much about me so I can’t worry about what he’s planning to do, I can just work on my own strengths, work on the weaknesses, and show that maturity on the night. Early on in the pro career you’re always a little bit too eager to impress but I’ve got the patience now, in the actual fight and in terms of opportunities, and I’m ring-savvy now, as well. I didn’t have that craftiness when I first started but I know my way around the ring, I know some tricks and I think you can really clearly see that difference.”
Across his nine fights since turning professional in September 2016 there have been distinctly different styles of opponent at almost every turn for the Mickey Amoo managed fighter; save for an unplanned ‘rematch’ with Edward Bjorklund, deliberate attempts to match him with testing fighters have seen Mahmood fight with variety in each bout.
“Against journeyman it’s all good getting a win but you want to take something from the fights – if you’re not learning something then there’s really no point. I haven’t learned as much in my last two fights as I perhaps hoped or as I did in the first seven but those first fights were a hell of an education for me with just how different each fighter was. Actually my last fight (against Edward Bjorklund) was a good example of how I’ve changed and advanced as a fighter and the experience was valuable, not the fight but everything around it, and I think I handled the date change and opponent change well.”
It’s all been uphill since his debut, as development should be, but his career began in ideal circumstances with a one round knockout of Daniils Kucurs, a Latvian whom little was known about, but it was his second contest – against Jules Phillips – that brought the Ilford resident into reality.
“My favourite fight so far has got to be my debut, a first round stoppage, but in terms of a learning fight I’d have to say Jules Phillps (Mahmood’s second career bout) because after that debut (against Daniils Kucurs) I felt as though I could walk through every fight and he was a bit of a wake up call for me. I tried to get involved and he sort of brought me back down to earth. My first six rounder, against Alexander Birkenbergs, was a good learning fight – he’s tall and awkward and he’s got a horrible style.”
I felt as though I could walk through every fight and he was a bit of a wake up call for me
The team around him, spearheaded by Mickey Amoo, has given credence to the belief that anything is possible. Stablemate Richard Commey is the ultimate celebration of this having gone from debuting in a prison’s canteen to IBF world champion via the very streets of Bethnal Green that Mahmood marauds this present day.
“Mickey Amoo and his son, Michael Amoo Jr as well as Tony Hudson who, unfortunately, has had to take a backward step recently along with the likes of Ryan Walker make for a really nice team. It’s small but it’s close and when I first joined Mickey he sat me down and gave me the talk, told me his plans, and I could see how hard he worked and that it wasn’t just words. He brought over Richard’s belt (IBF world champion Richard Commey is also managed by Amoo) for us to see how far he’s come and you think ‘we’re in that boat’. To see that Richard has come from York Hall on these Goodwin shows to world champion it does show that, actually, yeah it is possible.”
And the final word from the ambitious fighter, who articulated himself well and is a true gentleman outside of the ring, was a clear statement of intent. He is ferociously talented, wonderfully driven and surrounded by all the right figures to ensure the success his talent warrants.
“I would have liked this sort of a fight a little bit earlier as I feel like I’ve been ready for the Southern Area for around about 12 months and obviously that was at super-bantam but I’m not complaining, the opportunity is here now. I look at myself last year and I can see a whole lot of difference between myself then and now – maybe I wasn’t ready back then but I definitely am now, more than ready, and I’ve learned there’s nothing wrong with holding back and taking your time. You’d rather be overprepared than underprepared and I am taking home that Southern Area title.”
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