Smith of The Star: Kid will be all right on fight night

The Sheffield Star Martin Smith 9th February, 2012

HIS brothers are in prison and one of his friends is dead.

Two years ago Awad Barry told this newspaper that boxing had saved him from a life of crime in a Sheffield neighbourhood plagued by drugs and gang violence.

On February 18 at Rotherham's Magna Centre Awad, aka Kid Galahad, gets a chance to show Sheffield and the world his talent was worth saving when he faces Jason Booth for the WBC International super-bantamweight title.

Those years have been quite a journey.

"I knew as soon as I walked into the gym with my mum that first time that it was the place for me," said Barry, now aged 21.

"It felt comfortable, like home straight away, it just clicked. I knew I was going to be a world champion from the start. Brendan said that if I stick at it I could achieve that.

"Since then I have spent most of my time here. Without it I would have been in a lot of trouble, I was always fighting in the street but this has kept me focused. It has given me a goal in life."

Now a positive, talented and unstoppably confident indivdual Awad discovered boxing at the age of 14 when he was destined for a life of trouble in Upperthorpe, under the shadow of one of the city's most notorious gangs.

Banned from all buses and trams in the city for fighting and refusing to pay fares, kicked out of Myers Grove School, banned from youth clubs and swimming baths throughout Sheffield.

Something had to change.

"I was never in a gang but I used to get in fights all the time at school," said Awad at St Thomas' gym Wincobank with a smile that lights the place up.

"I used to fight on the buses and I would fight with the drivers. I was banned from everything.

"My brothers had always been involved in drugs and violence. That's just how it was in Upperthorpe. I have been to see them in prison and they are really pleased that I have made my way in boxing. They ring me and we chat and they encourage me. They are both coming out soon."

That Awad did not end up in the same place as his brothers is, he says, down to the discipline and support he got at St Thomas' Gym.

"I came down to the gym when I was 14. I just wanted to be successful and I knew I had to be in here every day for that to happen.

"Before I came here I had nothing to do and no goals in life so getting in trouble was just something to do. But it's a hard sport and you have to put the effort in to get something out of it."

The comparisons to a young Naseem Hamed are irresistible.

Of similar extraction, size and weight they both took their raw talent to the Ingle camp as young kids. The unwavering self-confidence and belief in their own ability is identical.

But Awad says he's learned from Naz's mistakes.

"I think I'm a bit of all the fighters to come from this gym, Johnny Nelson and Bomber Graham in particular. I want to be a multi-weight champion. I think I can do what Naz couldn't do and win titles in three weight divisions.

"I think I can achieve more than any other Ingle fighter - including Naz. Within two years I will be world champion but I have to go out and do it. I believe anything is possible in life."

But despite the TV exposure and the backing of some of boxing's shrewdest judges, Awad will carry on doing things the Ingle way.

"I still pick litter up off the streets like Brendan had us doing when I was 14 years old," said Awad. "It's not a big deal, People tend to think it's a dirty thing to do or that it's beneath them but it's only litter and it makes the place look better. It's not a big deal for me to help out."

Trainer John Ingle believes this televised fight is a chance that Awad has to make the most of. "It's a great opportunity for him," said John.

"Channel 5 are taking a chance on him looking the business on television. He has the potential to do really well, we have known that for a long time.

"He hasn't had to break sweat yet against the kids he's beaten so far. But this is a tough opponent for him, someone who has fought for a world title.

"We are going to find out in this one whether he can really fight or not. We have the show and the fight and he has the ability and the belief. Now it's up to him to prove himself."

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