Teen Afghan refugee becomes boxing champion in two years

Simon Pirrett left, Ahsan Karimi, middle, John Conway, right
Image caption,Simon Pirrett (left), Ahsan Karimi (middle), John Conway (right) following Ahsan Karimi’s winning bout in October

By Alexandra Bassingham

BBC News

A teenage refugee who started boxing after arriving in the UK two years ago is looking to a future in the sport after becoming a national champion.

Ahsan Karimi, 18, who lives in Bristol, has been training at Sweatbox Gym, South Bristol, under coach John Conway.

The teen and his family fled Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2021, and were housed near the gym in Redcliffe, Bristol.

Mr Conway said: “It’s quite unprecedented to have two years training and win the championships.”

Mr Conway met Ahsan’s father through a friend and offered the family membership at Sweatbox Gym, which he co-owns.

When Ahsan began taking boxing classes, aged 16, Mr Conway said the teenager “quickly showed promise”.

Ahsan Karimi in training with John Conway on the right holding the pad
Image caption,Mr Conway said “It’s quite unprecedented” to win the championships with only two years’ training

Over the next two years Ahsan said he focussed and worked hard to win eight of nine fights before heading to the National Development Championships in Cannock, Staffordshire, in October.

He said it made him “very happy” to become the National Youth Champion at 67kg.

“I worked very hard, I trained very hard and I went through all these hardships to become the champion today.

“My family was very happy, especially my parents [who] encouraged me a lot and I [will] try to bring more happiness to my family.”

Ahsan Karimi in training
Image caption,Ahsan said his parents encouraged him a lot and were very happy with his success

Mr Conway said: “The final was a real barn stormer. The most experienced person in the group who was expected to win… Ahsan went on to beat them.

“He improved every time he boxed to win against far more experienced people.

“He’s training in the gym three times a week and there’s a really good vibe at the gym with lots of friends made.”

Mr Conway said everyone there is really proud of Ahsan after watching his journey over such a short time.

“I’m just really pleased we were able to help him and give him the opportunity which he seized with both hands,” Mr Conway added.

Ahsan in training
Image caption,Ahsan said he hopes to become World Champion one day

Ahsan said: “Sweatbox is my second home. I am forever grateful to them for this opportunity… and a special thanks to my coach John who has helped me a lot in my training.”

He said he looks forward to continuing http://surinamecop.com training with his friends and will try to achieve more success in the future.

“I hope to become a world champion one day and be a hero to my homeland and be able to train other champions,” he added.

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