Times ABC boxer confident of claiming third title at England Youth Championships

Zak Chelli with Times ABC head coach Dave Ryan

Zak Chelli with Times ABC head coach Dave Ryan - Credit: Archant

Times ABC middleweight Zak Chelli is in buoyant mood as he prepares to head north in search of an England Youth Championships hat-trick this weekend.

The 17-year-old, who has already won two national junior titles during the last two years, is now intending to add a third to his collection at the finals in Ferryhill, Co Durham.

The new format of the tournament means a more punishing schedule for boxers, with the quarter-finals held on Friday and semi-finals and finals on the two subsequent days.

However, Chelli is confident he can deal with that challenge – especially after his recent performance in the London final, when he cruised past the previously unbeaten Repton star Jimmy Smith.

“Smith had never lost in the championships before and I’ve already beaten him, so I do feel confident about this weekend,” Chelli told the Gazette.

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“I know there are going to be some good fighters there and it’s an electric draw, which is different from last year, so you don’t know who you’re going to box.

“I think the idea is to get used to how international boxers have to fight, day after day, and they want to see how we cope with that.

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“Two years ago I fought in the Junior World Championships in Ukraine, so I should be used to it. This one’s the big one – if I can get the hat-trick I know I’m truly the national champion at 75kg.”

Chelli, who is now a four-time London champion, won his two previous national titles in the vest of Dale Youth ABC – the west London club that produced middleweight stars James DeGale and George Groves.

However, he and his elder brother Yahia – who is also a double national champion – opted to leave Dale Youth and join Times at the end of last season.

Their father, Zak Sr, who was a professional light-heavyweight during the 1990s, also moved to the King’s Cross club as a coach and, along with fellow coach Tony Lucas, will be in his son’s corner this weekend.

According to Zak Jr, having his father and brother around has proved invaluable – and he hopes further success in Ferryhill will bring positive effects for Times as a whole.

“It is harder for me because my brother’s two years older but we like the competition, to see who can get the most titles,” he said. “We’re the same weight so it’s good sparring for me.

“I used to watch my father when I was young and try to join in, so I’ve always been focused on boxing. My dad trains me, he knows me best and I believe it’s an advantage for me to have him in my corner.

“Moving to Times has been a change – it takes me about 40 minutes to get there – but they’ve treated me very well.

“Everything I need, they give to me and [head coach] Dave Ryan’s a good man – he always listens and tries to help.

“It’s a nice club, but they probably haven’t been noticed a lot in terms of having champions. If I can win this title it should help to change that and bring other boxers into the club.”

Chelli, who played rugby at school and was also a London champion in the shot putt, intends to earn his living as a professional boxer one day, but a more immediate ambition is to force his way into the GB Olympic squad.

“I think they’ve pretty much picked the places for Rio [in 2016],” he added. “So maybe 2020 would be nice to aim for, but I do hope to go pro eventually.”

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