“He’s quite capable of winning a medal”: Bury boxing coach backs Ali to emulate namesake
Is there anything in a name? One Bury boxing coach will be hoping so as 20-year-old Muhammad Ali travels to Brazil this July for the 2016 Olympic Games.
The young amateur will look to take inspiration from his legendary namesake after qualifying for Team GB at the World Championships in Qatar last year.
Ali finds his name on the largest squad list in Team GB boxing history, along with 11 other boxers in search of Olympic glory.
And veteran Bury Amateur Boxing Club trainer Mick Jelley, who has guided Ali since the age of 15, will be watching intently as the flyweight takes to the ring in Rio.
“I met him about five years ago when he joined our club,” said Jelley.
“He started coming up with his brother and his dad and we’ve been enjoying each other’s company since then.”
Since his call-up to the British squad, Ali has moved his preparations south of the Pennines, following the lead of previous gold-medalists Anthony Joshua and Jessica Ennis.
“We don’t see him much because he’s living in a hotel down in Sheffield at the moment whilst he’s with Team GB,” Jelley said.
“He’s training in Sheffield’s Institute of Sport four days a week now, but he comes back up when he has a day off.”
With fears over the Zika virus so far having forced numerous athletes to pull out of competition, Jelley added that the Olympic team ensured Ali had taken necessary precautions.
“He’s been given the injections that they’ve all had to have and he felt a bit ill last week,” he said.
“He was a bit off-colour but he’s back to normal now and he’s really looking forward to going out there.”
Jelley trained a young Amir Khan before his journey to Athens in 2004, and is quietly confident a similar success story could be about to be written.
Team GB sit third on the overall Olympic boxing medals table with 53, and Ali will be looking to add to that number this summer.
“I’m hoping he can go over there and bring back a medal for himself and he’s quite capable of doing that,” he said.
“Whether he does get a gold or not, he’s done brilliantly to get to where he is now.”
“Amir won a silver medal, but he wasn’t a loser. It’s a big honour to even go to the Olympics.
“If you’re picked to walk out with that flag for your country, you’re an Olympian, and not many people can tell their grandkids that.”