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Graduate dreaming of becoming world champion boxer

By Harrison Ferris (MA in Sports Communications and Digital Media)

As the class of 2023 turn their tassels to the left, one young man with a heart-warming story has possibly the biggest aspiration possible.

Off the back of a huge stoppage win on Saturday night, Gloucestershire southpaw and featherweight boxing contender Shabir Haidary scored his seventh straight victory, blasting Adam Mbega out of the ring inside just two rounds to claim the vacant IBO Continental title.

The 25-year-old has been under the guidance of local promoter Mark Neilson, who has been inspired by Shabir’s career to date, and he praised his ability to become a “crowd pleaser” following his latest victory inside the MECA on Swindon’s Regent Circus, which was packed with 500 fight fans who all left impressed by Shabir’s early stoppage win.

His success inside the ring has progressed as smoothly as he could have hoped for since turning professional in September 2021. What is perhaps more inspiring, however, is that his journey to the squared circle is filled with stories of tragedies and turbulence in classic underdog boxing style.

Shabir running uphill during training in the countryside
Shabir Haidary building up his fitness in preparation for a bout (credit for training images: Simon Beasley)

Originally a native of Afghanistan, Shabir moved to Gloucester at the age of 12 with, in his own words, “no English, I was unable to read or write, had no family or home.”

He found boxing at the age of 14 at Gloucestershire’s Fight Factory gym, a place he found a great release to his newly adopted lifestyle in England. He now coaches at that same gym that launched his professional career and aspires to take a world title back to Gloucester one day.

Speaking to Rich Leigh on the Starting Line podcast, Shabir opened up about the difficulties of life back home, and his incredible journey of coming to England.

Shabir’s story is one worthy of a champion in any right. When discussing the troubles he faces back home, the raw emotion of concern is clear in his voice.

“I still worry about my family. I’ve got a bed to sleep in and a family who love me,” he said. “I still worry for my friends back home and wonder what the future looks like for them.”

Shabir was a student at University of Gloucestershire, studying Sports Strength and Conditioning, a degree which has he believes will help him with his boxing by looking after his weight and fitness.

Graduating last week (pictured below with foster mother Ann), he praised the incredible staff who helped him to “reach new heights and surpass even my wildest expectations.”

Shabir in his gown at graduation

With his IBO Continental belt secured from Saturday’s win, Shabir is hoping to step up again in 2024, and is using his story of torment and trepidation to hopefully inspire others to overcome seemingly impossible adversities.

In the build-up to his last fight, Shabir’s adrenaline was fuelled with emotions of joy and excitement riding on the highs of the previous week’s graduation ceremony.

Unbelievable support and amazing people

Shabir is one of the remarkable stories to come from British boxing. His time at the University has helped build both his confidence and appreciation to those who supported him, which has truly brought together this feel-good story.

“None of these accomplishments would have been possible without the unbelievable support of the amazing people around me,” he said. “Your unwavering support means the world to me.”

Now that studies are over, he wants to put his knowledge back into boxing, which will be his “sole focus” in 2024.

“Along the way I am still going to use my degree to help other (local) boxers and other people, top get fit and stronger,” he said. “But my sole focus is going to be on my boxing.”