Salford’s Marc Leach believes his best will be enough to outmanoeuvre Qais Ashfaq when the pair meet in a Final Eliminator for the British Super-Bantamweight Title this Saturday October 17, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US.
After losing his professional debut back in 2014, ‘Livewire’ has remained unbeaten, winning 14 and drawing one of his contests since. The 26-year-old, who trains with Jamie Moore at the V.I.P Gym in Astley, jumped at the opportunity to take on his former sparring partner Ashfaq and plans to ‘shine’ on the big stage.
“I was supposed to fight in March but it was cancelled two days before because of the pandemic”, said Leach. “It was a bit of a setback, but it’s been a good turnaround for this fight and now is my time to shine.
“You can’t really take too much from sparring. It has been over a year since we sparred and he’s progressed his way, I’ve progressed my way. He may have learnt a few new tricks and skills but it’s all about who executes the game-plan right on the night.
“I believe it’s going to be a chess match for the first half of the fight because we’ve both got similar styles. I believe I have the speed to win, he’ll have the power, but I’m used to sparring people bigger and heavier than me. I feel stronger at this weight and can’t wait to perform.
Former amateur standout Ashfaq heads into this weekend’s showdown in Peterborough as the favourite with the bookies, but English Bantamweight Champion Leach is relishing his underdog tag and is promising to deliver a career-best performance under the lights.
“Being the underdog to me means you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. This is on his show and he has all the hype around him. The pressure is on him to perform and I do believe if I perform my best, I will win this fight.
“I’ve got to start sharp and fast and keep that pace up throughout the fight. I believe I will win comfortably and confidently and I will get him out of his rhythm early to get the victory.”
Qais Ashfaq: Once That Bell Rings, We’re Enemies!
After winning Silver at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and representing Team GB at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Qais Ashfaq has made a perfect start to life in the paid ranks, and the 258-managed talent is itching to push on for more titles.
Currently 8-0, Leeds southpaw Ashfaq claimed his first professional Title last November, outscoring Joe Ham on a technical decision to become WBA Continental Super-Bantamweight Champion in Manchester, and has since switched things up behind the scenes as he begins what he calls ‘the next chapter of his career’.
“I just felt like I needed a bit of a change,” said Ashfaq. “Me and Angel Fernandez had some friendly chat on social media and it was natural process. We got on straight away from that first session and I feel like he’s the perfect coach for me and what I need.
“Because of lockdown there was a lot of work over the phone to start with but once we got going face to face it was a lot easier after a slow start. Training in Loughborough is great for me being from Leeds, the facilities are unbelievable!”
The toughest test of Ashfaq’s career so far comes in the shape of friend and former sparring partner Marc Leach this Saturday, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US. The skilful ‘Livewire’ who remains unbeaten since losing his professional debut back in 2014, has since gone fifteen without loss.
“When the fight was put to us it was strange but we never shy away,” added Ashfaq. “Maybe they expect the same Qais they saw in sparring but sparring is different to fighting. Hopefully I will go out there and put on a great performance and win convincingly.
“When me and Marc get in the ring we won’t be friends but we will be shaking hands before and after. Once that bell rings, we’re enemies. I’ve been taking fights that were offered but it’s about time I get an opportunity like this. After I get this win I’m looking to push on towards that British Title.
“We have had a change in the whole set up, it wasn’t just coaching it was management as well. 258 are a great company to be working with and it’s exciting to see where the future goes. This is Ashfaq 2.0, the next level to my career and God willing it’s a very successful partnership. Im hoping to show what I’ve been learning with Angel and win well on Saturday.”
Laws: Come Saturday I Will Show No Respect
Joe Laws is chasing the perfect 10 having made what he believes is the perfect move in his career.
The irrepressible ‘Benwell Bomber’ takes on fellow unbeaten Super-Lightweight Rylan Charlton on Saturday, live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the US, in his first bout since leaving behind his beloved Toon to base himself in Lanzarote.
Already onto his third coach of his career, the 26-year-old (9-0, 5KOs) drops the ‘Jack-the-lad’ persona to say he is deadly serious that this is the route he needs to take to reach the top.
“I’ve moved out to Lanzarote where the training is mint and the lads are spot on,” he said Laws. “I’ve really felt the benefit of it. At home I think I was too much in the comfort zone, out there I train go back to my apartment, train again then back to my apartment and so on. I needed a bit of structure and it’s working well for me. To be honest, I can’t wait to get back out there.”
Laws will be guided by Champions Gym’s Jonathan O’Brien for the first time in the East of England Arena. The Irishman was a good fighter himself, winning nine and drawing one of his 12 contests. He is in the corner for an acid test with the undefeated Norwich fighter Charlton (5-0-1, 2 KOs) very much a live opponent.
“It’s my hardest fight to date, a big step up, but I’m feeling good and can’t wait for Saturday,” said Laws. “With this pandemic, gone are the days when you are the 70 and the opponent is the 30. This is a good 50-50 fight, but I think that will be where you see the best of me.
“I’ve been training hard, had some cracking sparring and come Saturday I’m going to perform. I’m going to knock him out, flatten him. I’m throwing with intent to hurt. He’s training to knock me out, know what I mean? Once I get in the ring, it’s personal. Come Saturday I will show no respect whatsoever.”
Even before moving from the Tyne to the Canaries, Laws had shown signs of an increase in maturity as he moves from crowd-pleaser to contender.
Gone in his last fight were some of the outrageous swings and he looked so much better for that in a second-round stoppage win against Jan Prokes at the Newcastle Eagles Community Arena at the start of March.
“When I hear people say, ‘Laws can’t box’ I laugh my bollocks off thinking ‘yeah, yeah’,” he said. “I’ve come from a very good gym at Birtley ABC. I’ve done hundreds of rounds with Pat and Luke McCormack, Callum French, Thomas Hodgson, Cyrus Pattison and more. Sparring with them has made me a teak-tough kid, but could I do it if I couldn’t box?”
Ashfaq vs. Leach is part of a huge night of boxing at the East of England Arena in Peterborough, Geordie favourite Lewis Ritson (20-1, 12 KOs) takes on former long-reigning World Champion Miguel Vazquez (42-9, 16 KOs), Joe ‘Benwell Bomber’ Laws (9-0, 5 KOs) takes on Norwich’s Rylan Charlton (5-0-1, 2 KOs) over six rounds at Super-Lightweight, West Rainton’s Thomas Patrick Ward (29-0, 4 KOs) fights Thomas Essomba (10-6, 4 KOs) over ten rounds at Super-Bantamweight and Catford’s Ellie Scotney makes her professional debut against Bec Connolly (3-7) at Featherweight.