Anees Taj (5-1, 4 KO’s) was on track to take a spot in the Pakistan boxing team for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until a late rule change made him illegible. At that point, the law graduate decided to turn professional and see how far he can go.
Next week, on Saturday May 14, he takes part in the eight-man BOXXER Series Manchester: Cruiserweights tournament at Victoria Warehouse, Manchester, live on Sky Sports.
“The plan was always to be a professional boxer. I always enjoyed law, and liked the idea of being a qualified lawyer, but when I beat David Adeleye at the Haringey Box Cup in 2014 I was set on turning professional there and then,” he says.
“My grandfather agreed to help pay for my university fees as long as I finished my degree before turning professional. From then the plan was always to be a professional boxer and have law as a fallback.”
Taj successfully balanced boxing with his study across university by strictly regimenting all his time, winning amateur success and catching the eyes of the Pakistan Olympic Boxing Team along the way.
“I just had a clear, exact timetable for every day, with an exact time for all my training and studying. I’d study in the day, train boxing in the evening and run at night. I usually did my assignments two weeks before they were due.”
Taj had a dream of fighting at the Olympics for Pakistan and had a place assigned to him before sudden eligibility rule changes – instituted due to the COVID pandemic – closed that door for him. Disillusioned with amateur boxing, he made a big decision.
“In the end I would have had to jump through hoops for 9 months and then not even definitely make it to the Olympics, so I realized it was best to just turn professional there and then,” he explains.
And with his ferocious power having earned him four knockouts inside three rounds, plus a history of competing in tournaments as an amateur, he feels the BOXXER Series format plays to his strengths.
“This format is all about work rate. I’m going in for a fight, and whatever happens, happens – it’s either him being knocked out or me being knocked out,” he says.
“The best thing about this tournament is everyone’s coming to win. Beating them will show how good I am. If I didn’t enter this tournament, I’d regret it in a few years looking back. I don’t want to be someone who has regrets and comes back to the sport when they’re too old.”
BOXXER Series events feature an eight-man, one-night tournament: four quarter-finals, two semi-finals and a grand final.
The victorious boxer takes the lion’s share of the prize fund for one-night tournament boxing while every boxer in the tournament has the chance to put a spotlight on himself by putting on a standout performance on the nation’s biggest sports television platform.
Featuring a mix of rising stars and top prospects competing under short-form boxing rules (3 x 3 minute rounds), BOXXER SERIES tournaments offer an unparalleled platform for grassroots British boxing and can send winner’s names rocketing up the rankings list.
Promising non-stop action from start to finish, BOXXER SERIES events are touring every major city in the UK and will feature each region’s best boxing talent, rising stars and local heroes.
Tickets are on sale now via Boxxer.com
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