‘’I just want to make everyone around me proud, and inspire young children in my area that if they work hard enough they can achieve their dreams as well.’’
Featherweight prospect Emran Hussain is ready to follow in the footsteps of boyhood hero, Amir Khan, as he prepares for his second bout as a professional boxer. Like the former Olympic medalist from Bolton, Hussain’s journey to the professional game has not been an easy one. And the story is definitely not run of the mill.
An undefeated UK Boxing Union (UKBU) champion, the 25-year-old has risen from obscurity to become the latest name to gate-crash the British 126lbs division. In an exclusive interview with FightTalk.net, Emran Hussain bares all as he details how he left behind University opportunities and a stable career to enter the madhouse which is the boxing World.
A convincing win over the durable Ricky Leech in April signalled a successful debut for the young Millwall man. But the honeymoon period was quickly over, and the often cold and ruthless persona of boxing revealed itself as Hussain began to relive some of nightmare injuries which had side-lined him for so long.
‘’I had to stop running, one of the tendons in my foot was overstrained, which I think came from over training. So I have had to use the cross-trainer and even that was putting too much stress on it, so I have been stuck on the bike for the last few weeks. You must work around obstacles, you can’t let them beat you.’’
‘’I had issues with my wrist too. I hurt my knuckles in my first fight too. I’m getting past the injuries and the training is going well.’’
Due to fight on last month’s York Hall show, a last-minute cancellation of opponent left Hussain without a dancing partner. A show cancellation on top of the already time consuming injury breaks, the young contender grimaced as he described the moment he realised the bout was no longer taking place.
‘’Well I remember getting a call, two or three nights before the fight. I was doing cardio and Alec got a call saying the fighter had pulled out and they had tried to find a replacement, but they couldn’t. I was gutted because it was so close to the fight. I was in the gym practically every day eating well and dropping weight. Everything you have to do in preparation for a fight.’’
‘’Then for that to be all for nothing because there is no to fight, it is really annoying and disheartening. It wasn’t a nice feeling and I wasn’t happy about it. But I got over it and Alec found me a fight for 14th October.’’
Resilient, undeterred and with a new fight date, the South Londoner continued to explain how he came to terms with the news.
‘’I tried to look for the positives. It gave me time to recover from my injuries and feel more 100% for the fight. So hopefully I am even fitter and stronger for the next fight.’’
‘’I am feeling really good about the next fight. My conditioning, my sparring and the hard work put in make me feel very confident.’’
‘To be a champion you have to train like a champion’, is a mantra echoed to thousands of young athletes coming through the ranks; and it is a quote taken quite literally by Emran Hussain.
‘’In a typical day’s training, we would start with boxing training in the morning with my coach and my team. General sparring, padwork etc. etc. I then finish with weights and cardio in the evening. I train three times a day with one rest day a week. It’s pretty intense.’’
‘’My trainer is Alec Wilkey, who has been about in the game for a fair amount of time. He also happens to be my manager. The reason I chose to go with Alec is because I felt comfortable around him and I connected with him. He genuinely cares about his fighters and that’s what I saw that made me want to go with him. In the time, I have spent with him, I haven’t changed my opinion on him at all. He is a great guy.’’
Fighting out of Lansbury gym in Poplar as he continues to learn and ply his trade, Hussain spoke fondly as he described his relationship with his team and training partners alike.
‘’We have also had a new strength and conditioning coach join our team, whose Angel from BNAthlete. Generally speaking, the team is really great. All the boys, all the trainers work well together and we have a fantastic atmosphere in the gym. Going to the gym is something you look forward too because you can always have a laugh and a joke but getting the work done at the same time. All the boys support eachother, we roll together as one.’’
British boxing has become a hive of activity in recent years, with fighters from small hall shows to arena events finding more opportunities with the growing number of platforms available. A knockout performance is exactly what Emran Hussain will be searching for come 14th October, as he hopes to throw his name into the circle.
‘’I am not signed with a promotor at the moment. I boxed on a Steve Goodwin show for my debut and I will be fighting on a British Warriors and Hellraiser show on 14th October. Alec has been guiding me, telling me what is good for me. He seems happy with everything I have shown so far, so we will see what the future.’’
Amateur woes and UKBU Glory
Bad scorecards and questionable judging in the amateur boxing has been an issue of contention for years. The infamous Michael Conlan ‘finger’ incident at the Rio 2016 Olympics represented the nasty head of years of unrest and dissatisfaction with politics in the sport. A horrible decision left Conlan’s dreams of Olympic glory and faith in boxing in tatters. A pain Emran Hussain knows all too well.
‘’The reason why I went over to the UKBU after amateurs was because there was a lot of politics involved in the amateurs, that a lot of people are aware of. There were plenty of fights that I had won and I ended up getting a bad decision. As a young fighter it made me lose faith, and I thought about giving up the sport.’’
Down on his luck and seemingly nowhere left to turn, Hussain turned to the UKBU. A hybrid of amateur and professional boxing, the former champion recollected his rollercoaster journey from being an unknown quantity to ruler of the roost.
‘’My coach suggested going over to UKBU, as it would suit my style more. I used to like using a lot of head movement, rolling in which the amateur referees didn’t seem to like. So I thought why not let’s see what happens. I ended up winning all my fights.’’
‘’After a few fights, one of the challengers for the UKBU Lightweight British Title was unable to compete. Two days before, my coach gave me the choice of competing at Lightweight, which was way above where I was competing at the time. It was a really hard fight, but I won and I managed to score a knockdown. That made me start to think, maybe I have a bit more potential, maybe I could turn professional, maybe I could make a go of it.’’
With training camp entering their final weeks of preparation, Hussain took time to reveal his motivation and aspirations in boxing. Citing childhood heroes such as Prince Naseem Hamed and Amir Khan as strong Asian role models and great fighters, the 126lb prospect began to detail what he had given up to pursue boxing and why.
‘’My aspirations, like anyone else, is to be a Champion. To win titles, to show that all this hard work wanst for nothing, I had given up going to University, given up a stable career. I don’t want this to be for nothing. I want to make everyone proud. I believe I can become a Champion on a British level. World class fighters are a different level, but I like to think that one day I can have a go and maybe win a title!!’’
Carl Frampton, Lee Selby and Scott Quigg stand tall as the current juggernauts of domestic talent in the 126lb division. A host of homegrown talent remain hot on their heels, with Emran Hussain eager to join the pack in the hunt for titles.
And after years of uncertainty, injury and heartbreak, Hussain has finally reached his dream of becoming a professional. The next steps are into the unknown, and I wait with keen anticipation to see what is next in the remarkable story which is Emran Hussain.
All the best to Emran in training and for his next fight.
Follow Emran on Twitter: @EmranHussain_
Written by Thomas Humber