Josh Warrington vs Kid Galahad represents the culmination of a tumultuous journey for the challenger, writes Danny Flexen
I first met Barry ’Kid Galahad’ Awad on the outskirts of Paris in January 2011. He was just 20 years old and looked even younger, 5-0 as a fledgling pro but the first man to stop decent Dougie Curran, which was no mean feat.
Deep in the bowels of the Palais des sports Marcel Cerdan, Barry had just seen his light-heavyweight gym-mate Danny McIntosh, behind on the cards against French native Thierry Karl, uncork a humdinger of a shot to bag a memorable 11th-round stoppage and the vacant European title. As McIntosh stared at the beautiful blue belt, still unable to process what had just occured, an animated Awad fidgeted on an adjacent bench in the ’away’ changing room and assured me, with conviction, that he was ’next’ but would go one better. "I’ll be a world champion," he stated.
Little did he know that his first chance at validating that bold claim would come
eight long years later, nor could he have foreseen the rocky road that would connect the two points.
Now, as he stands ready to challenge old amateur foe and IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington, on June 15 in the latter’s Leeds stronghold, Kid Galahad no longer looks like a kid but is in his physical prime. A great deal of tumult has accompanied his delayed arrival at the summit.
The Qatar-born Sheffielder’s awkward, switch-hitting style, at least early on, appeared patterned after the legendary Naseem Hamed, who, following a chance meeting at mosque, had recommended Barry, then 14, train with his own former mentor, Brendan Ingle, in Wincobank. Ultimately guided more by Brendan’s son Dominic, Awad nonethless perfected an approach that emphasises intricate footwork, angles and creativity.
Storming to 18 straight wins in five years, picking up British, Commonwealth and European super-bantamweight titles along the way and stopping the talented Jazza Dickens for the vacant Lonsdale Belt in an impressive performance, Kid Galahad was fervently backed by then-promoter Mick Hennessy and regularly showcased on terrestrial Channel 5. Still only 24, he seemingly had the world at his feet. Then, in September 2014, it turned upside down.
Following a routine 12-round win over Adeilson Dos Santos in his hometown, Galahad failed a post-fight drug test for the steroid stanozolol and copped a two-year ban. This was later reduced to 18 months by Ukad on appeal, without Galahad admitting guilt or reporting other athletes, but the stain of cheating, whether intentionally or otherwise, endured, Galahad’s negative public reception compounded by the claim that his failure had been caused by his brother spiking his drink. Similar to David Haye citing an injured toe following an abject defeat to Wladimir Klitschko, the excuse only exacerbated an already dire situation with fans previously dismayed by poor-taste comments Barry had made regarding Dickens.
Kid Galahad has always been mentally strong however and trained virtually every day of his suspension. Upon returning to active competition in 2016, he was not quite a pariah but Hennessy’s influence had waned and Galahad did predictably find opportunities hard to come by. Eight fights in the last three years, six of those scheduled for eight rounds or fewer, and on shows promoted by four different companies, is testament to the fact he was forced to restart almost from the bottom.
Credit to him then for maintaining desire and focus, never losing sight of the ultimate prize. A flashy style yes, but one allied with genuine substance and committed supporters in the Ingle team.
In October last year, Kid travelled to meet skilful Rhode Islander Toka Khan Clary in Boston and secure, in his opponent’s backyard, a shot at the destiny he had predicted for himself back in Levallois-Perret.
It was not an exciting contest but Galahad got the job done, clearly on the scorecards, and forced Warrington into a mandatory defence the Leeds warrior admits he did not want, struggling to get motivated for his challenger when unification fights had been mooted.
Presumably Warrington is now fully focused and, despite the challenger now working with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom behemoth, Galahad will again have to step on his opponent’s home turf, the champion’s promoter Frank Warren having won the purse bid.
Galahad is a man irrevecobly changed by his experiences, but the confidence, the conviction of that steely-eyed 20-year-old remains. Added to it is a world-weary acceptance that if you mess up or fall short, it’s a long road back and Barry has already used up his second chance. He cannot afford to lose in Leeds and no one will be more aware of that than the Kid himself