British title challenger, Kyle Williams, predicted that maturity would be decisive in his fight with current champion, Glasgow’s Kash Farooq. He was correct in that assessment, but – unfortunately for the Wolverhampton man – it was Farooq, the younger fighter by four years, who displayed the greater maturity, composure and class to defend his title in style.
Williams charged to the famous St Andrews Sporting Club ring on Thursday 25 April, buoyed by his noisy travelling support, with eyes bulging intensely. He refused to look away from Farooq, who shadow boxed in his corner, as the fighters awaited the first bell. That energy transferred into the opening minutes as Williams tried to pounce on Farooq, aiming varied shots to the head and body, attempting to stop Kash from establishing his rhythm, with mixed success.
The gulf in class, which was hinted at in round one, was becoming more apparent in the second, as Farooq matched William’s intensity with superior movement and accuracy of shots. Farooq, who was defending his belt for the second time, floored Williams in the closing seconds with a sharp, crisp right hand, sending the Englishman to the canvas. Williams looked somewhat unsteady but beat the count to return to his corner for a minute’s respite.
Farooq began to dominate matters in the third: he met Williams in the centre of the ring, toe-to-toe, and had near impeccable judgement of distance, allowing him to slip William’s persistent shots, and counter with precise, spiteful combinations. William’s bravery continued into the fourth and he landed some eye-catching upper-cuts, but they had little impact on the relentless Farooq.
Kash’s power is deceiving, his arms and shoulders are modest, but strong legs and core, mixed with sharp reflexes, generate force to damage any opponent in his division. And that came to fruition in the fifth round. Williams was battling on, attempting to exchange, but was repeatedly forced to miss with Farooq’s energy and morale-sapping elusive movement. The end came with Farooq working the body, measuring a jab to the stomach, which invited William’s to drop his guard, before unleashing a powerful right hand on the chin. The loud chants of ‘Kyle’ from the Midlands fans silenced, as Kash was lifted into the arms of trainer, Craig Dickson, in celebration. His record moves to 12-0 with five stoppages out of the last six fights, consistent with his improved technique and strength.
Dickson must be commended on the job he’s doing with Kash. We are witnessing his physical and mental development, maturing with each contest at the young age of 23. He displayed outstanding movement, slips, shots variety and accuracy. And, critically, the ability to remain calm under siege from a predatory opponent, picking and landing effective shots with consequence.
The future looks incredibly bright for Farooq. Alex Arthur, former WBO champion commentating for BBC Scotland, suggested that he could be world class. Few who have seen Kash fight in recent months would disagree with that potential. But Farooq has two tasks ahead of him before serious talk of European or world honours beckon. He will be eager to defend his belt at least one more time, which would allow him to win the prestigious British title outright. And calls for an all Scottish clash with fellow bantamweight Lee McGregor are growing, to such a degree that the public may well demand the mouth-watering fight next.
Farooq-McGregor is undoubtedly the fight that Scotland wants to see. Two magnificent young boxers who hold recognised titles; Farooq’s British and McGregor’s Commonwealth. But it’s a remarkable indication of how successful Kash’s career has developed that he now holds the cards. Farooq had the inferior amateur record; his career started and remains in small halls; there is no landmark national promoter; and no big-name trainer. He has carved his success through ability, hard work and a strong, credible close-knit team. We hope the fight is made soon, but Farooq has earned the right for it to be on his terms.
Report by Jamie Sokolowski | Photographs from St Andrews Sporting Club Facebook