STEPPING INTO THE GYM WITH TEESSIDE’S NEXT GENERATION
T.E.A.M; N.P.B.A – Together Everyone Achieves More; Natural Progression Boxing Academy
Imran Naeem, Shafiq Asif and Waqas Mohammed are a trio of well-versed, well toned individuals emanating from the Natural Progression Health Club’s Boxing Academy in Stockton. With Asif and Waqas, lifelong friends and colleagues, training for upcoming bouts, an opportunity could not be passed over to meet them ‘on their own turf.’
Having already met ‘Team Asif’ at the press conference and done the obligatory interview, the opportunity arose from that encounter to attend a training session as well. And a challenge was laid down. That challenge was met as the interviewer stepped into the squared circle, donned first a pair of boxing gloves to do some pad work with Mr Naeem, and then be provided with the regulation headwear and had an interesting sparring session with Mr Asif, a Lightweight professional boxer.
First though there was the press conference at the Grosvenor Casino in Newcastle ahead of Steve Wraith’s promoters debut this coming Sunday (9th September) at the O2 Academy in Newcastle. Shafiq ‘Chubzy’ Asif, attending the conference with an entourage, will be very much an outsider of sorts on the ‘Return of the Ca$h’ bill. The reason behind his being an outsider arrives in that, residing in Teesside; Asif will be the only non-Tyneside ‘home’ fighter on the bill.
“We are looking for a clean, quality performance,” claimed trainer Imran Naeem.
“Chubzy will look to supply a boxing exhibition to gain more of a following around the region. There is a lot of respect and professionalism amongst the fighters and followers within the TTW region.”
Asif, as a Lightweight, orthodox fighter, will be going into his impending bout looking to extend his undefeated record to four straight. His opponent comes in the shape of Johnny Greaves, a journeyman fighter, whom at 33 has won only three of his 89 bouts to date. Greaves though will no doubt be seen as another stepping stone in the rise of the young prospect.
“We will have a lot of fans with us,” said Chubzy.
“It will be an opportunity for me to showcase my skills and for them to add to the atmosphere.”
That support travelling to Tyneside from Teesside is looking to be near a three figure sum for a fighter that only turned professional earlier this year. But, alongside that of Waqas Mohammed, Chubzy they have both transcended the amateur scene and into the professional arena.
It was to be an amateur career that, for Chubzy, saw him not only win four national title and box in the World Youth Championships, but also make the GB Development Squad, an achievement in itself.
Within the last six months Chubzy has progressed and is looking for his fourth professional success having defeated Graham Fearn on points in his debut, and then collected an RTD3 success over Steve Martin in his second outing.
Travelling to Wearside in his last outing, Chubzy was on the Phil Jeffries Summer Rumble fight card where he faced, and defeated on points, that of Sid Razak. An opponent with which Chubzy said was “experienced but I never got into a fight with him.
“The atmosphere at the Stadium of Light was very good.”
That victory was so far the height of a fledgling career that began because of AIBA rulings meaning Chubzy either had to turn professional, or shave off his beard. Although rules are there for a reason, Chubzy made the successful move up the boxing ladder. And, not only is Chubzy about to face his fourth opponent as professional, he wants more.
“It will be his fourth professional fight this year,” said Naeem.
“It would though be nice to finish with another fight sometime in December as well.”
Trainer Naeem, as well as fighters Chubzy and Waqas, are happy to do whatever the manager, Mick Marsden decides of them. Beginning for Chubzy on Sunday against Razak, and for Waqas at the end of the month when he appears at the Borough Hall in Hartlepool.
And then came Thursday night, and a trip to the NPBA in Stockton.
Both Waqas and Shafiq have known each other since early childhood. They live in the same area of South Bank, schooled together, and went to the South Bank Gym together before both going to Natural Progression. For Chubzy, whom was around 12 years old at the time, it was to lose weight and was when he began boxing.
Both fighters are in different stages of their training programmes for their respective, upcoming bouts. Chubzy is all but finished with his bout on Sunday so was just doing some skipping and footwork, shadowboxing, pads and sparring. Waqas on the other-hand was on an intense circuit routine which includes around 9-10 different exercises including specialised press and sit-ups. For that Waqas, along with Chubzy, is in the gym six days a week, three times a day, as well as running twice a day.
Whilst present Waqas was seen enduring the strict circuit routine, twice, the first a warm-up session and then the same routine but at a faster pace; both of which lasted for around 15 minutes. During this period Chubzy did a warm-up session with the skipping ropes. Although the interviewer did try the ropes, doing at that pace and style presented by Chubzy would take a bit more practice. As with everything else, a warm-up session was conducted first.
Then there was that of the ring work. First it was to be on the pads between fighter and trainer as they moved through several rounds, along with a little questioning in between each. The ring work itself concentrated on the jab, double jab, backhand, sidesteps and the like.
Of the questioning, the one which springs to mind regards the difference between sparring and actually fighting an opponent. The response for which was “the styles are different so have to be aware of that but most of which is the same.
“I just have to keep to my own game-plan and factor in any differences.”
Watching a fighter doing pads and sparring was a unique experience, but, for all the uniqueness that was presented did not compare to what happened next. The interviewer stepping into the squared circle for the first time ever and experiencing, albeit minimally, the work in which a professional boxer puts in. First there was a replication of the pad work, which for someone as unfit as this interviewer is was a little tiring; followed by a brief sparring session.
Yes that’s right, a sparring session with a professional boxer. Granted no ‘real punches’ were thrown, but the movement was there and the interviewer was well aware of the presence of the gentleman stood across the ring from him. This created a new, deeper respect for the fighters and the work with which they put in when training for impending bouts, not only to keep fit but to succeed at what they do.
Insha’allah Team NPBA