Galal Yafai on jewellery, watches and becoming Olympic boxing champion

Birmingham born British boxer Galal Yafai is tipped to be the next undisputed world champion. Here, Galal speaks to Something About Rocks about his love of boxing, Mohammad Ali as well as watches, jewellery and all things that glitter - especially world title belts

Photography by William Gilchrist, Story by Ian Thorley

Boxing pundits are betting that Galal Yafai, the Birmingham born British boxer who won Britain’s only Olympic gold medal in the flyweight category is en route to becoming flyweight world champion after becoming the only British boxer to win gold in Tokyo.

In February, he won his first pro fight against the Mexican Carlos Bautista, winning in just five rounds. That fight also won him the vacant WBC international flyweight belt. He’s now tipped to be the next undisputed world champion. In June we took Galal out of his comfort zone as we styled him in an array of fine jewellery – necklaces, bracelets, rings and watches – during a photoshoot for Something About Rocks.

Here, we talk to Galal about his love of boxing, Mohammad Ali as well as watches, jewellery and all things that glitter – especially world title belts.

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai wears Sunspel vest and Chaumet necklaces

How did you become a boxer Galal? 

Galal Yafai: My family are originally from the Yemen like the famous boxer Prince Naseem. He was like a king to us when we were growing up  and so my brother and I started boxing. My brother then went to the  Olympics in Beijing in 2008. I thought, ‘I want to go to The Olympics  [too]’, so I started boxing with them, and that’s where it started. 

How big is your family?  

I’ve got four brothers and two sisters. And two of them box. 

At what age did you start boxing? 

Well, it’s always been around me from when I was about twelve or thirteen.  And then I stopped boxing for a bit, and I came back to it  when I was 17. But I didn’t get onto the Great Britain team until I was  twenty one or twenty two. I was working as well at the same time. 

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai wears Dior turtle neck and jacket and Ara Vartanian rings

What drives you to succeed as a boxer? 

I was working in a factory. I hated working there. I thought: ‘I need  to get out of this place’. Then I got into the Great Britain boxing team  and that meant I could finally leave work, which was a relief. It sounds  like a cliché and cringey, but it actually did. I hated going there every  day. One year after that, I was at The Olympic Games so I didn’t have  to go back: [it] was great. 

How did you build up to becoming Olympic champion? What was the journey and how was the Olympic experience for you?

I started winning national titles. Then I had a trial for Great Britain  and in 2016, I got on the national team. I was then thrown in the deep  end in the Olympic Games in Rio. But I lost in my second fight and  I remember thinking, ‘I want a gold medal’ and yet I had come back with nothing. Because of Covid, I had to wait five years for another  chance at the Olympics but after my first fight in Tokyo I remember  thinking: ‘I have five fights to win the gold medal’. Thankfully, the final  came and I…won the gold medal and that was surreal. 

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai wears Brunello Cucinelli shirt and Van Cleef & Arpels necklaces

Did you think about the fight a lot beforehand,  or did you just see it as just another fight? 

I just thought: ‘I’m here now, it’s another fight.’ If I win, brilliant. If I lose, I would have been devastated but I thank God I got that gold medal. 

Do you ever feel nervous before these big fights? 

I’m never scared of getting beaten up or getting hurt – it’s always [fear] of losing. Being a boxer, you’ve got an ego, you want to win. That fear I think is in every fighter – it’s not even being hurt, it’s a professional thing to be hurt. And the people seem to be a lot tougher, people want to win, it’s pros money now. People want to make money and get to the top. 

What’s the difference between amateur and pro boxing? 

There’s a lot more rounds as a pro; amateur is three rounds. I’ve done 10 rounds so far, but next its twelve…[which is] a very long time. Three minutes, 12 rounds. And the gloves are a lot smaller (so it hurts more when you’re hit). 

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai wears 73 London shirt and trousers and Carl F. Bucherer watch

Since the Olympics you’ve gone pro, tell us about your fights since then. 

My first fight was a ten rounder at the O2. And my second pro fight was a massive promotion at Madison Square Garden where I managed to win a belt. 

And what’s your next fight coming up? A world title? 

First, I have to defend my belt. But there are four world champions in my weight category. There’s someone from Japan, England, who I’ve sparred, a Mexican, and a guy from the Ukraine: they’re a lot of top fighters. But I’m more than good enough to beat them. 

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai wears Giorgio Armani suit, Sunspel vest and Van Cleef & Arpels chain and pendant

Tell us about your jewellery and what you like. 

I’m a massive jewellery fan but if I was to wear some type of jewellery, it might be a nice necklace. 

And what about watches? 

I’m not a watch collector but I do like a nice Rolex. I had a few in the past actually. Hopefully, I can keep fighting and get a bit more money to buy a nice one. I like the green bezel Rolex submariner. 

Galal Yafai
Galal Yafai wears Goossens rings

And the jewellery that we dressed you in today – what did you like? 

I was wearing an Audemars Piguet watch earlier, which I really liked. I like the necklaces [too], but I think the Roxanne First necklace was a little bit too funky for me. 

Who’s your favourite boxer and why? 

It’s Muhammad Ali. And not even because of the boxing. He’s an iconic figure. He’s also an Olympic champion and there’s one thing I can say that I’m like Muhammad Ali: we both have an Olympic gold medal.

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