SUPER-FLYWEIGHT Ijaz ‘Jazzy’ Ahmed spent most of last year chasing Quaise Khademi inside boxing rings, with the pair sharing 10 rounds in February and 12 in August.
Both times Ahmed harassed the favourite, making him work hard every round, and both times Ahmed believed he got the better of things, even if only one of the fights – the first – delivered him victory.
The second, a bone of contention for Ahmed, ended in a 12-round draw, which meant that not only the British super-flyweight title remained vacant but Ahmed had to again chase Khademi in 2022. They have unfinished business, after all, and Ahmed, though boxing again this Sunday (March 27) in Walsall, is growing impatient.
“What’s frustrating is not being able to fight for that British title again because he’s (Khademi) apparently injured, or still not 100 per cent recovered,” Ahmed told Boxing News. “He wants a tune-up fight before we fight again. It’s inevitable that it will happen again but I want it to be sooner rather than later.
“Obviously the first time I beat him, but even the second time I was 100 per cent certain I beat him. They gave him a draw in that one and robbed me of the chance of becoming British champion – for now anyway.
“We have to go there again and we don’t really need to, because I’ve already beaten him twice. But, at the end of the day, it wasn’t written for me to become British champion at that time and God’s got a different plan for me.”
The first time Ahmed and Khademi met the fight was seen as almost a foregone conclusion ahead of the first bell. Khademi, the ‘home’ fighter, was unbeaten in eight pro fights, tipped for big things, and his story – born in Kabul, Afghanistan before later moving to East Ham, London – was a compelling one that gained him plenty of attention going into a fight all of a sudden headlining a BT Sport-televised card at the Copperbox (following the withdrawal of the original main event).
Birmingham’s Ahmed, on the other hand, was mostly ignored. In fact, it could be argued the 28-year-old was only really acknowledged when, having set the tempo of the fight, he came away with a majority decision victory at its conclusion.
“It was a massive step up for me,” Ahmed said. “I shot straight into the main event slot and was really up for it. I was there to do my job, which is what I did.
“Going into the fight, they just thought I was going to be a walkover. They thought I would show up and their lad would pick me off and deal with me. But they didn’t know who Ijaz Ahmed was before I busted their boy up.”
In many respects the perfect marriage, at least in terms of styles, Ahmed and Khademi reconvened six months later in Birmingham, this time with the vacant British super-flyweight title on the line. It was a fight every bit as thrilling and close as their previous one, only this time Ahmed was held to a draw.
“Everybody who knows anything about boxing knows I beat him in that second fight,” he said. “But you get these horrible decisions in boxing sometimes, as we saw with Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall. That was a horrible decision as well. Catterall beat him easily but they gave it to Taylor.”
Accepting they are evenly matched, and that three outsiders will ultimately determine their fate, Ahmed knows he will have to reassess his approach ahead of any third encounter with Khademi. He has taken heart from the fact he clearly gives Khademi problems but knows next time he must do even more to secure the win.
“Styles make fights and I am his kryptonite,” he said. “He just can’t get around me. I’m on him all the time and he doesn’t like it. I don’t give him any time or space to do what he normally does. I did that in the first fight and I did that again in the rematch.
“This time I will have to take matters into my own hands and take it out of the judges’ hands. I will have to stop the fight going to a decision and I believe I can do that. I’m working on things in the gym all the time, and hopefully we can get that stoppage.
“I’ve definitely hurt him in our previous fights, but I just didn’t have the experience I needed back then. I didn’t even realise he was as hurt as he was at times and only realised this when watching it back later. Obviously, because I didn’t realise he was hurt when I was in there, I didn’t capitalise on it at the time. But that won’t happen again. Now I have watched it over, and now I have seen that he was hurt and know he can be hurt again, we’re going to capitalise on it next time and hopefully get him out of there.”
Should this happen, Ahmed, 9-2-1 (1), will have finally settled his rivalry with Khademi and granted himself permission to move on. He will have also put a smile on the face of his father. “After Ramadan [in April], we’re looking at June or July time [for the fight to take place],” he said. “If it’s in Birmingham again, that would be great, but I don’t mind where it takes place. I just want to go there, do the business, and bring that title home. The British belt is a prestigious belt and a belt every fighter from Britain wants on their resumé. It’s what I’m striving for. It’s one of my father’s dreams for me to become the British champion and prove I’m the best in my country.”