The champion athlete
“I have trophies from different fight then I have my championship medal in 2017 from the ABA Elite Over 18 National Championship and my boxing gloves. I won all the way from the regions. I am so proud of that. Now I go into professional boxing in the featherweight class. I have to do boxing for my own sanity.
Some people say I am obsessed with training. That’s the same for great athletes and people who have achieved great thing; you’ve got to be obsessed. You dream to make it, to have the chance to make it, you’ve got to be obsessed. If I don’t train and I don’t run, I don’t feel like normal. It’s a very skilful sport. I think the way I look at training, the extra hours and the old school long runs; I train like I have a world title shot.
I can still remember the first day I went …I was given a pair of gloves. Slip, jab …my partner was good. I was enjoying it and I fell in love with it and I kept going, kept coming back and I got used to Jon Pitman, my coach, at the Fight Factory in Gloucester. He has been my mentor from the beginning. He and his wife Liz have been fantastic for me and treat me like their family. Then from there I started training twice a week. I just wanted to get in the ring.
He’s a great coach because he tells you exactly how it is. He’s very straight. He’s taken me from when I was young. He knows what the sport can do and how much it is part of you.
It’s about the mental and physical attitude: the physical part is there, it’s the mental part that’s the hardest. I am constantly fighting a battle in my head. As soon as I train with sparring, even just getting hit by someone, I’m back to normal and I feel happier in myself. Boxing is more than a dream, more than ambition, it means more to me, more than that. It means life. I feel alive in that ring.”
City of Gloucester
Shabir Haidary trains on long runs every day up Robinswood Hill just outside Gloucester.
“I love it there. It’s beautiful. It’s all about belonging in Gloucestershire. I feel at peace there and I look over my home city. It takes fifteen minutes to walk there from my house. My foster mum Anne took that photo on a walk with me there. I don’t have anything physical from there as an item – just a photo – but it’s a really important place.
Anne is a big part of my life. I have been with her since I was 14 years old. She means so much to me. I had nothing and she gave me a home.”
Shabir says he feels completely integrated into the culture here where he studies and works and trains. “I am so used to it here and the way of life. This is my home. I dream in English but I can still speak Pashto and Farsi, but I am sorry to say I can’t write or read in it. I’m proud of being Afghan too and being Moslem. I’m happy here and Gloucester is my home. I hate leaving it if I have to travel to another city for a fight. I always want to come back. I’ve always had kindness from the people of Gloucester, right from when I first arrived in a freezer lorry and a policewoman helped me.
I love this country – I saw many terrible things and different attitudes from different people in many different countries and from different police forces but not here. In one country I was starving and could barely keep my eyes open and they had food there and never gave me any and then took me back to the deep snow where they found me and just left me, I could have died. Nobody cared about that boy. It wasn’t like that here. I have only ever been shown kindness in England. There is no other country that gave me what this country has. And it is a very tolerant multi-cultural place. I think it’s amazing.”
It’s the first time Shabir has spoken so openly. Once he started to talk the words and deep thoughts just poured out. He shares some of his year long journey with us and the piece of clothing that is all he has left from home and how much it means to him. After the recording he said he felt like he’d done ten rounds in the ring, but that he was also happy that he could reflect and think and to know himself that little bit better.
“Whilst I focus on studying and working and training hard 100 per cent at my boxing, in the future I also want to support other young people facing hardship and challenges and to motivate people not to give up.”
The team at per stellas wishes to thank Shabir for trusting them with his story. At his next big fight they’ll be in his corner, cheering him on.
Listen to the podcast now to delve deeper into these stories and hear about Shabir’s other most treasured possessions.
Subscribe to listen and enjoy future episodes.