Gamal Yafai travels to Italy for an attempt at European honours, writes Paul Wheeler
ON Thursday (December 17), Birmingham “Beast” Gamal Yafai goes into enemy territory when he challenges European super-bantamweight champion Luca Rigoldi on the Italian’s home turf. Milan’s Allianz Cloud hosts this Matchroom/OPI co-promotion, which will be televised live on DAZN.
Yafai has only fought outside of the UK once before as a professional (in Germany), but the 29-year-old has extensive experience of competing abroad as an amateur, including in Russia, where he picked up a bronze medal at the 2010 European Championships.
All but one of Rigoldi’s pro fights have taken place in Italy. In his sole away appearance in the paid ranks, the Caldogno resident secured the vacant European crown by unanimously outscoring Jeremy Parodi in the Frenchman’s backyard. Since that title triumph in November 2018, Rigoldi has made two successful defences of his belt. However, last time out in December 2019, the 27-year-old was held to a disappointing draw by previous victim Spartak Shengelia in a keep-busy six-rounder.
While Rigoldi, 22-1-2 (8), performed four times last year, the 17-1 (10) Yafai had just one bout. That was a third-round stoppage of Lee Clayton in November in what was his first outing in 14 months due to a torn bicep. The West Midlander has only been involved in low-key contests since losing his unbeaten record to the more seasoned Gavin McDonnell via unanimous decision in March 2018.
A fierce body-puncher who carries power in both hands, Yafai puts his shots together well and is strong at the weight. Having learned lessons from his defeat to McDonnell, where he fatigued down the stretch, the former Commonwealth titlist can put this knowledge to good use against tough southpaw Rigoldi. The pick is for the challenger to prevail on points.
The Verdict A big opportunity for Yafai to end the year on a real high.