Waleed Din

Waleed Din
Sheffield has been a hotbed of fight talent down the years.  The graft of Johnny Nelson, the skill of Herol Graham, the grit of Ryan Rhodes, the power of Kell Brook and the explosiveness of Prince Naseem.  Well it seems there is a new name to consider for that list, a young man in the flyweight division by the name of Waleed Din.
He may not yet have the professional record of the aforementioned fighters, but Din (7-0-0) has made significant steps in a short space of time.  Still only aged 22, the rise of the man from the steel city is all the more impressive given that his introduction to the sport didn't come until relatively late.
"I first stepped into the boxing gym at the age of 16" Din tells me.  "I put my achievements down to both coaching and natural ability. I mean, you can have all the ability in the world but having the right coach behind you and guiding you is very important."
That guidance started six years ago under the tutelage of coach Keith Palmer.  It is a relationship that Din has invested his trust in, continuing through his amateur days and into his unbeaten professional career which is still less than 12 months in the making.  It was September 2014 when he made his bow in the pro game, taking on Mikhell Soloniniki in his hometown of Sheffield.  What was the trigger point to turn over from the amateur game?
"I reached the Semi Finals of the 2014  Senior ABAs and was up against a lad called Thomas Essomba  who has represented Cameroon in the Olympic games. I didn't put a foot wrong in the whole fight, boxed to a gameplan and beat him convincingly, how he was awarded the decision I do not know!  In the end, bad decisions made me make the decision to turn professional."
It is a familiar story of frustration meaning that the amateur game loses one of the brightest prospects due to questionable decisions.  What the amateur game has lost out on, the professional ranks have gained.  Din's transition to paid boxer has been flawless.  Five knockout wins in seven straight victories have displayed the power on top of the honed amateur technique.  Has the switch suited Waleed as well as he hoped?
"I've always been told i had a 'Pro' style as an amateur" he reflects.  "The way i planted my feet and let my hands go. The power has always been there even as an amateur but as a professional you will see it even more over the longer rounds."
As the rounds have increase, so to has the level of opposition.  It would look to some as though Din is being fast-tracked.  In only his sixth professional fight he took on the experienced Isaac Quaye (27-9-1) and came away with a decisive points victory.  "You could say that, was my best win, he had an impressive record with a very good KO percentage. I made easy work of him and had it been an 8 rounder i would have taken him out" says Din.
Taking on such risks early on is making its own rewards.  Now in just his eigth fight, Din is in line for a shot at the vacant Commonwealth flyweight title on October 17th in Rotherham.  The man who stands in his way is someone who Din has shared a ring with already.
Thomas Essomba (4-1-0) is the opponent that will stand opposite Din in October.  Essomba was also the last opponent he faced as an amateur - the man he feels he beat convinvingly in the ABA final and made him turn professional.  There would be a beautiful irony that his first professional title could come against the man who made him turn over in the first place. 
Essomba also turned professional in 2014 (although he has one professional fight, his only loss, on his record back in 2009) but has been less busy than Din.  Four fights in just over a year, with four victories to show for it (including one over mutual Din opponent Quaye).  The fight is scheduled for 12 rounds, a distance neither fighter has covered before.  Does Din feel ready for it?  "110%, I've always trained for a tough 12 round fight even when i was doing 4 rounders. So now that the opportunity has come I will take it with both hands."
It is all positivity oozing from the young Sheffield fighter.  Part of that may come from the fact that he is familar with Essomba, having felt he previously did enough to beat the Cameroon fighter.  Another part may come from having the backing of one of the North East's most prominent promoters, Dennis Hobson.  Hobson has previously supported and delivered for his fighters, famously securing home advantage for Jamie McDonnell back in 2013 at Doncaster's Keepmoat Stadium when McDonnell captured the IBF bantamweight title.  Is Din confident that he can benefit from similar advantages?
"Most Definitely,  I've got a great man behind me in Dennis Hobson and have recently signed a promotional contract with Platinum Promotions which is run by Asif Vali, who has previously done work with Amir Khan and currently with Tyson Fury. We have a plan put in place, all starting off on October 17th."  There was talk of Hobson taking his young talent to the States in the future - is that still on the cards?  "Every fighters dream is to fight out in the States but one step at a time, first I need to take care of business on October 17th when I fight for the Commonwealth title."
It is a grounded and humble approach for a man in his early 20's, focussing on his old amateur adversary.  But there is time to fit in a question about another man at the top of the domestic flyweight division who has held the British, European and Commonwealth titles himself Kevin Satchell (14-0-0).  Is it a fight that Din is after, even at this early stage?  "Of course, there's not many flyweights in the country. He's supposedly number 1 in the division so why not?"
Din is likeable, and schooled properly in the amateur game.  He has displayed the power during his professional transition.  One of the issues may come that domestically his potential opponents are limited.  Picking up the Commonwealth title on October 17th would open new opportunities for the man from Sheffield - and also close a door on the disappointment he left behind in the amateurs.
Tickets are available from Waleed Din, you can contact him via facebook or on twitter (@Waleed_Din). The show is held at the Magna Centre, Rotherham. Tickets are priced at £40, £70 Ringside & £100 VIP.