When boxer Ajmal Faizy steps out into the ring this Saturday at Manchester’s Victoria Warehouse, he will be fighting for more than just fame and glory, writes Steve Ballinger.
“I want to dedicate this fight to Britain, the country that offered me protection when my life was in danger,” says the young professional fighter nicknamed “The Dream”.
Ajmal came to the UK when he was just 14 as a refugee, fleeing Afghanistan in fear for his life.
Arriving alone in the UK as a young teenager was pretty daunting: “It was terrifying for the first few days,” he says. “I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I got used to it.”
After the authorities placed him with a foster family in Darwen, near Blackburn, he wandered into the gym run by well-known trainer Barry Higginson and was soon boxing regularly. Barry was to have a big impact on his life in many ways.
Not only has he supported Ajmal’s sporting career, he has also helped teach him English. And when Ajmal turned 18 and had to leave his foster family, Higginson took him in. He still lives there now.
Higginson also helped him build on his natural prowess for the sport leading to his current ranking at number 31 in Britain.
Ajmal said: “Britain has been really good to me. People like Barry have helped me make a home here. Now I want to give something back.”
His life now is a far cry from when he fled Afghanistan after being tortured and beaten.
His family owned farmland in the Parvan province of Afghanistan, producing fruit and vegetables. When his father refused to hand it over to men who wanted it, he was beaten and killed. As Ajmal became the head of the family, the threats and beatings were then directed against him. He still bears the scars.
His mother was determined that her son find safety and in 2009 she sold part of the farm to raise money so he could flee the country.
Ajmal had no idea where he was going, but took flights via Dubai, Turkey and Barcelona before arriving in Manchester.
Now he’s focused on one thing only – winning his next fight. After that, he has big ambitions. “I want to win a British title,” he says. “It would be my way of saying thank you to the people who have been there to help me all the way.”