GB boxer’s extraordinary journey from ‘doing the rubbish’ at Land Rover to Olympic medallist

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read
Britain's Galal Yafai (red) celebrates after winning against Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov after during their men's fly (48-52kg) semi-final boxing match during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on August 5, 2021. (Photo by UESLEI MARCELINO / POOL / AFP) (Photo by UESLEI MARCELINO/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Galal Yafai celebrates after winning against Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov on Thursday. (AFP via Getty Images)

GB boxer Galal Yafai is on the verge of becoming an Olympic gold medallist in Tokyo – six years on from “doing the rubbish” at Land Rover in Solihull.

Yafai won on points in the men’s flyweight semi-final on Thursday after a thrilling three-round firefight with Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov.

He will now face the Philippines’ Carlo Paalam in the final on Saturday (6am UK time), and reflected on his factory floor past after the semi-final win which means he will leave Tokyo with a silver medal at the very least.

Yafai told reporters about where he was in 2015: “I was working in the Land Rover factory in Solihull, Birmingham. I was working there, grafting, picking up boxes, dreaming of being at the Olympic Games.

TOKYO, JAPAN - AUGUST 05: Galal Yafai (red) of Team Great Britain exchanges punches with Saken Bibossinov of Team Kazakhstan during the Men's Fly (48-52kg) semi final on day thirteen of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Kokugikan Arena on August 05, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Galal Yafai in action during Thursday's men's flyweight semi-final against Saken Bibossinov. (Getty Images)

"I was doing the rubbish, picking up boxes, delivering parts – just the skivvy jobs really. But now I'm on the verge of being Olympic champion, so I thank God.”

Yafai also competed in the 2016 Games, making the last 16.

"I got to Rio a year later, didn't work out for me. I waited five years… and it's paying off for me now."

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The 28-year-old, whose brothers Kal and Gamal are professional boxers, added: "I hated working. I'm not going to lie, I hated it.

“I wanted to be a boxer for years. I hate getting told what to do, so now I'm my own boss and hopefully I can be Olympic champion.”

Team GB is now guaranteed six boxing medals at the Tokyo Games, its best haul since 1920.

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However, no one has won gold this year – which Yafai will do if he beats Paalam on Saturday.

Asked what that would mean to him, Yafai responded: “It’s Olympic gold, man, Olympic gold’s crazy. Imagine being the Olympic champion!

“It’s something that I’ve dreamed of and I could never see happening – to be in an Olympic final is never something I thought I could do. And now I’m in it, it just goes to show, if you put in hard work then you reap the rewards.”

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