NACs 2023: quarter-finals and semi-finals preview – Male Under 51kg contenders
April 14, 2023 | by Chris Boyd
Only two can advance to the final, yet all believe they will go on to be champion… the numbers simply don’t add up.
That’s why the remaining seven boxers in the Male Under 51kg category at the England Boxing National Amateur Championships 2023 head to Rotherham’s Magna Science Adventure Centre this weekend to decide who will go on to box to be the best of the best.
Winning a coveted national title belt is a goal that has been shared by boxers spanning generations dating back to 1881, when this prestigious competition was first launched, and has gone on to help launch the careers of household names such as Frank Bruno, Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.
It’s why those participating have been putting in that extra mile out pounding the streets, that extra sparring session, to give themselves the very best chance of earning a place at Finals Day in Newcastle a week on Saturday (22nd April).
One boxer that has already been there and done it as far as the NACs is concerned – and therefore knows the upward trajectory it can provide – is defending 2022 champion at Under 51kg, Hamza Uddin.
The boxer who hails for the Midlands gym Fearless, but goes in this time as the GB number one seed, is determined that lightning will strike twice.
“I won the NACs last year, had my assessment for GB and got onto the squad at the start of the year,” he said.
“They asked me if I would like to enter again and be the GB number one seed and I said yes. I’m chomping at the bit for this opportunity, it’s been a while since I boxed.”
Uddin is aware of the attention being on the GB squad and being defending champion brings, but is adamant that it pushes him to work harder and perform better under the pressure.
He also believes that he is coming into this a better boxer.
Uddin added: “I think I boxed really well last year, but there’s always things you can learn from your bouts.
“Now that I’m on the GB team, I’m seeing amazing boxers, Olympic boxers and pros, and you learn so much by watching people and being in that atmosphere.
“I feel as though I’m learning on the job. I’ve been picking up new things and I feel like a new boxer.”
Despite his success, Uddin hasn’t forgotten his home and is excited to be led out by his home coaches this weekend.
“It could have been the GB coaches, I believe, but I’m going with the coaches from my home club,” he said.
“You know, on the national stage, it’s nice to have the coaches that have trained you your whole life and maybe it’s the last opportunity to have my home coaches there. I’m going to make the most of that.”
Having reaped the rewards of National Amateur Championships success last year, you could expect Uddin to lose sight in the importance of England Boxing’s premier competition. However, this is not the case.
He said: “It’s just as important to me and it would be just as big a title as it was last year. I’ve got more than enough motivation to defend my title and win it again.”
If there is one boxer who has the belief to take down the defending champion, it’s Lucas Dube.
While still having a healthy respect for his opponent, confidence oozes out of the No Limits boxer as he speaks about this coming weekend’s challenges.
“It’s the most determined I’ve ever been to win,” he said. “I can see victory almost clear as day.”
The Merseyside and Cheshire contender had been working two jobs until recently, at a shoe store during the day and bar work by night, but gave up the latter in a bid to secure NACs success.
Dube said: “Working day and night made it difficult to get training in, which is the priority.
“I can now train six days a week, twice on three of those days. I’ve had a great camp, and this is the fittest, fastest, and strongest I’ve ever been.
“It’s also the most prepared for a competition I’ve ever been.”
The commitment and preparation that quitting one of his jobs has allowed has reaffirmed to Dube that it was a calculated risk worth taking – especially if it leads to national glory.
“Winning would mean everything to me,” he said. “It’s part of the plan.
“I’ve got a really positive self-image. I’m full of confidence and I see myself succeeding in life and in boxing.
“Part of my whole journey and part of being the boxer I envisage myself being, is winning this.”
Metro’s Ibrahim Kola is hoping that it’ll be third time lucky in his attempt for National Amateur Championships glory.
The North West boxer has suffered defeat to Ellis Trowbridge in his two previous finals and said: “I got to the NACs final in 2021 and then again in 2022. Hopefully this year I can get the belt.”
Kola has moved up to Under 51kg for this year’s bid, a weight he says he feels is more natural and comfortable for him.
It has also seen him dedicate all of his time to training and, he believes, better adapt his skills.
“Boxing is all that I do, I’m in the gym day to day,” he said.
“I’m more of an insider boxer. I like to put my shots together on the inside and plant my feet, catch their shots, throw my counters.”
“For my dad (winning the NACs) would mean more than everything. That’s who I’m doing this for, so hopefully I’ll get it this time.”
Kola finds himself in quarter-finals action against Hassan Abu, from the capital’s Earlsfield.
Despite only having boxed for five years, the London boxer has claimed his regional title four times, as well as bronze and gold at England Boxing National Development Championships.
Laser focus is apparent in Abu, who quit his full-time job as a graphic designer to focus solely on boxing.
“I think if it wasn’t for COVID, I would have achieved a lot more,” he said. “I’m especially focused on these championships.
“I’ve done a lot of sparring, a lot of training based on three-minute rounds. I’m getting ready for tough competition because this is where the best comes up against the best.”
And when to comes to talk of being the best, Abu isn’t short on confidence.
He added: “In my mind I’m already number one in the country and I think this tournament is just a procedure.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for and now I’ve got it in front of my hands, I’m not going to let it slip.”
Earlsfield boasts numerous past winners amongst its ranks and Abu quotes one in particular as his boxing idol, a remark that cuts respect through his palpable confidence.
“From my club I really look up to Louis Adolphe who is a former NAC champion and a GB champion.
“It’s such a privilege and achievement that very few people get to have. It’s a matter of going and getting it done now.”
Herbie Jackson is a boxer making the step up to the senior level for the first time this weekend.
The Guildford City contender finally tasted success last summer, winning the Haringey Box Cup in June following agonising defeats in previous finals.
It’s a victory that has prompted unrelenting commitment from Jackson, a trait which Guildford’s head coach Ben Harmsworth hopes will take him all the way.
“He’s given everything up basically,” he said. “He’s finished college, gone into work and we’ve taken the decision to put everything towards these championships.
“He’s not been active on club shows this season or anything really. It’s all about working towards the NACs.”
The intense training regime leaves Harmsworth confident going into this weekend.
He added: “Herbie’s upped his training, taken it more seriously, matured. I think at this weight there isn’t a big depth of talent and Herbie’s got a good chance.”
“He’s a good mover, fast hands. He’s always been a boxer rather than a fighter.
“We’re trying to now get him to mix it up a little more. He’s been doing a lot of strength training and we’re asking him to plant his feet a little bit more.”
Jackson’s endearing personality sees him coming into this weekend with the full backing of his Guildford club-mates, a gym he joined five years ago.
“Herbie’s a really good person, very loyal, cheerful and friendly. He’s one of the nicest people we’ve had in the gym, so everyone’s hoping he does well.”
Standing in his way is number two seed Tom Teers, boxing out of Amalgamated in Guernsey – the only gym on the island, which has a population of just 70,000 people.
Boxing on an island has its disadvantages, confesses the Channel Islander, but it’s not held him back in his development.
“I’ve been boxing out of Amalgamated for five years now,” said Teers. “I’m Western Counties champion, I’ve won a silver medal at the Haringey Cup where I lost in the final to Ellis Trowbridge and I’ve got to the finals of the England Boxing National Development Championships.
“It leaves me going into the seniors and NACs for the first time as a number two seed, so hopefully I’ll do well in it.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s (being seeded) given me extra confidence, it probably given me nerves if anything!
“I’m confident, though. Not in a cocky way. It’s a privilege to me as I’ve only been in the sport for five, so it’s like, ‘wow, the hard work is paying off’.”
The hard work sound slightly harder in island life, with Teers only being able to spar heavier boxers.
He added: “That’s the most annoying thing is sparring. I have nobody to spar at my weight, so going into a championship it’s a bit different.
“I keep in contact with Hamza Uddin, who I’ve sparred a couple of times, and he’s sparring with different people every other weekend which I’d love, but I don’t really have that. I’d had to go over to England and that costs a lot of money. It is what it is.”
Teers looks up to two Guernsey-born boxers.
“My boxing idol would be my dad for sure,” he said. “He boxed in Guernsey for a couple of years and then in the Marines for seven. Seeing pictures and cut outs from the papers made him my idol.
“Then there’s Billy Le Poullain, who’s done well. He’s done the Commonwealth Games twice, which I’m aiming to do when it’s in Australia in three years’ time.
In the forefront of his mind, though, is winning the National Amateur Championships and in particular this weekend’s quarter-finals and semi-finals.
“Prep has been good. I’ve been training two to three times a day, strength and conditioning and I’ve got loads of sparring in. I feel really good so I’m just looking forward to it now.
“It’s the best title to have in England as an amateur, so it would mean the world to me.”
Fellow Under 51kg contender Amaan Ghulam is the boxer who can boast the title of pride of Warley Boxing Club, says head coach John Nash.
“We’ve had National Champions in the past, notably Soloman Dacres who boxed for GB. Dacres comes down and sings Amaan’s praises, he’s happy with how he’s going.”
Ghulam has enjoyed winning the England Boxing National Youth Championships in progressing to this point.
He’s also boxed for England three times, yet Nash insists he hasn’t let those highs go to his head.
“Amaan’s quiet, you wouldn’t get a word out of him. Very humble. He’s trained well and his coaches have prepared him well for this.
“He’s looking sharp. He’s up and out first thing in the mornings for his run, and he’s got a fitness fanatic in his uncle who ensures he goes for those runs.
“He’s got a family who are well behind him as well as the whole gym.”
Nash pulls no punches when it comes to his confidence in Ghulam.
He added: “He would have probably won this category this year. But now GB have given Hamza the opportunity to enter, it’s going to be extremely difficult.
“Nevertheless, his aim is to win this and get on the GB squad. He’s had his eye on winning this for a long time.”
Ghulam will have a bye through to the semi-finals after his scheduled opponent, Zeeshan Ahmed, of Manor, has been withdrawn.
More on the NACs 2023
Key info circular (Rotherham): Click here. Spectator info (Rotherham): Click here. Live Streaming (Rotherham): Click here. NACs home page: Click here.