By Ian Aldous: On Saturday night, in the beautiful setting of Monte-Carlo, Kal Yafai (24-0) aims to defend his WBA super-flyweight world championship for a fourth time against Israel Gonzalez (23-2), live on Sky Sports in the UK and DAZN in the U.S.
The reigning champion and 2008 Olympian is at the top of his game and looking to cement himself as the premier 115 lb fighter on the planet. Just 48 hours ahead of the fight, Kal took some time away from his preparations to talk with me over the phone.
IA: Last time out, you co-featured with Jerwin Ancajas, defending your respective super-flyweight championships in the U.S. How was that experience?
KY: Yeah, it was good. I enjoyed being out there and it was an entertaining fight. It was a good experience and it paid off.
IA: You were buzzed in the first round, but came through to get an impressive stoppage. How did you rate your performance?
KY: I went out there and I put him down. Then, he caught me afterwards, but then I got back on it and just broke him down.
IA: It looked as though the fights were promoted as a way to build to yourself and Ancajas unifying your titles. Is there a reason that’s not happened right away?
KY: We thought that fight would happen next. But, for some reason, they wasn’t interested in the fight after that show.
IA: But, they might be interested further down the line?
IA: It’s Israel Gonzalez standing in front of you on Saturday night. You’re very much expected to get the job done. Is there a possibility you could underestimate him?
KY: No, I haven’t underestimated him at all. If anything, I’ve made him out to be better than what he is – which I always do with all my opponents. I expect a tough fight. I’ve prepared for a tough fight and a tough, hard twelve rounds. Whatever he tries to do – I’ll have something to deal with it.
IA: Who have you been sparring with in preparation for Gonzalez?
KY: I’ve sparred quite a lot of people, to be fair. I usually spar with the lads up in Sheffield, the GB amateurs. I’ve done a lot of sparring with them up there. I’ve done some sparring with Brad Foster, who’s (9-0-1), he’s from the Midlands, a super-bantamweight. I’ve sparred quite a lot of people, (pauses) Andrew Selby, sparred him a couple of times. I’ve had some good sparring.
IA: This will be your fourth world title defence and you’re a very decorated amateur. You’re a true veteran of the game now, are you still as hungry and enthusiastic as ever?
KY: Oh, more than ever. People think that the more you earn and accomplish, not just in boxing, you’re not as hungry as what you were, but if anything it’s made me more hungry because I want more.
IA: This fight will be a little different with it being hosted in Monaco. The atmosphere is pretty much non-existent out there. What are you expecting?
KY: I’m not really bothered about that. If anything, it’s better because I can hear my team that have come out to support me. I’ll hear them more clearly. I’m in the ring and I’m here to defend my title. I just want to get in there and deal with this guy, get paid and go home.
IA: Are you still happy and comfortable fighting at 115 lbs?
KY: Yeah, most definitely. It’s always difficult. I have to be really disciplined throughout the twelve weeks. I’ve got a great nutritionist on board, Scott Robinson. He’s brilliant at what he does and he makes it a lot better for me. I’m strong when I get in there and in my last few performances, I’ve felt very strong.
IA: Andrew Moloney has been making waves at 115 lbs and has a decent ranking with the WBA. He’s called for a fight with you, do you expect that to happen in 2019?
KY: I’m not too sure. I’ve not really seen much of this guy or heard much about him. My promoter’s never mentioned him or anything like that. If they want to put this guy in front of me – then that’s fine, but if not, that’s fine also because he doesn’t really bring anything to the table right now. We’ll see.
IA: Another top-dog at super-flyweight is Roman Gonzalez. He’s lost twice now, but is undoubtedly a legend in the lower weight-classes. Is he still a force or has his time gone? There have been rumors of you fighting him?
KY: Yeah, I think Eddie’s trying to make the fight, but I’m hearing that he’s not very interested in it right now, but we’ll see. I want to concentrate on this guy on Saturday and then after that, I can talk with my promoter and my team about what’s available.
IA: Finally, what can fans expect from Kal Yafai on Saturday night, and what can they expect from you in 2019?
KY: Saturday: just a good boxing display and for me to be explosive. 2019: expect me to be in some exciting fights and to remain champion of the world.
Saturday’s fight night begins live on Sky Sports Arena from 7:00 pm and on Sky Sports Main Event from 7:45 pm in the UK. DAZN will be showing the event live in the U.S.
Denis Lebedev vs. Mike Wilson for the WBA Super World Cruiserweight Championship and Kal Yafai vs. Israel Gonzalez for the WBA World Super-Flyweight Championship headline the event at Casino De Monte-Carlo. Fanlong Meng vs. Frank Buglioni and Alexander Ustinov vs. Michael Hunter complete the main card.