FEATURE: Redwan Nishat's journey from war-torn Afghanistan to Rotherham and the boxing ring

FEATURE: Redwan Nishat's journey from war-torn Afghanistan to Rotherham and the boxing ring

By David Beddows | 19/11/2021

FEATURE: Redwan Nishat's journey from war-torn Afghanistan to Rotherham and the boxing ring
Redwan Nishat with (from left to right) trainer Ian Baines, Mick Wale and Josh Wale.

 

BROUGHT up in war-torn Afghanistan, forced to flee at 16 for a better life and then make a new start in a foreign country where he couldn't even speak the language, Redwan Nishat has taken many blows in his life.

Seven years on, this bright young man is embarking on a professional boxing career with the wisdom of someone much older.

In tandem with trainer Ian Baines and former world champion Josh Wale as his manager, highly-rated Redwan wants to realise his dreams in a sport which first grabbed his intention when he was a kid in the family home back in the perilous Afghan capital of Kabul.

But no matter what happens in the ring from now on, the 23-year-old who lives in East Dene is able to put it all into perspective because he's happy to be alive, safe and well, away from a country he no longer recognises.

Before Redwan first pulled on a pair of boxing gloves, life in Kabul with his mum, dad, two younger brothers and sister was harrowing, much of it spent behind closed doors, away from the dangerous, terrorist-rife world outside.

“All sorts of stuff was happening, including child grooming,” says Redwan. “My mum used to take me and my brother to school and bring us home, even when we were 14 or 15.

“We couldn't walk anywhere by ourselves because it was an unsafe area.

“A day would involve going to school, coming straight home and playing in the house. There wasn't the technology that there is here with mobile phones, iPads, computers and things like that.

“We'd stay inside to keep our parents' minds at rest. Going out to play with friends wasn't an option.

“The local shop was less than 200 metres away and even if we went out to get some groceries, my mum would be popping her head out of the door to make sure we were alright.”

Life was a grind, so much so that eventually the Nishat family decided enough was enough.

“To start over again somewhere else, you can imagine how hard that was,” says Redwan. “But we had no alternative if we wanted a better life.”

Trying to settle in Rotherham, more than 3,000 miles from home, the adjustment was hard, claustrophobic even.

“When I first joined Clifton School in Year 11, it didn't feel comfortable being around people, hanging around and playing, because we hadn't been brought up like that,” says Redwan.

“I didn't know the language and even if I did, saying 'hi, are you OK?' to someone was alien to me.”

The move knocked the young man's confidence but he wasn't put off.

He taught himself English by following tutorials on You Tube and gradually started adjusting to a new way of life.

Although Redwan failed his GCSEs, he went to college and came out with a qualification in Engineering.

Confidence was still a problem, and that is where boxing came in.

In his younger years, fighting had involved scraps with his brother, Burhan. “Sometimes I'd break his nose, sometimes he'd break mine.”

But one day someone suggested Redwan go and work out at Jamie Kennedy's Millennium Gym in Rotherham and his talent shone through.

“Six months down the line, Jamie asked if I wanted a boxing match. I thought. 'Are you serious?' I'm only doing this for a bit of fun.'

“He insisted that I knew how to move and throw a shot, the basics, so I got a license and passed my medical.”

In his first amateur contest, Redwan stopped his opponent in the third round.

In his second amateur contest, he went one better and forced a stoppage in the second round.

Good runs in the ABA and Boys Club championships followed and Redwan had 22 amateur contests under his belt when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.

As an amateur it meant little training no fights and, in Redwan's case, putting on 29 kilos above his fighting weight.

The more active professional game started to look more appealing and with him already being in his early 20s, it wasn't a decision that could be delayed.

He looked at a few potential managers before Josh Wale, a former British champion, was recommended to him.

“I knew Josh because of his boxing career and he'd just got his pro manager's licence,” says Redwan.

“I went to see him and the way he came across in terms of what he was going to do with my boxing career made me excited to turn over with him.

“I'm ambitious. As long as I am fit and healthy and God is one my side, I want to take this as far as I can.”

The young pro combines his training around a “day job” as a store manager and is eager to soak in as much knowledge as he can from different people.

That's why he continues to train with Ian Baines at the Steel City gym in Sheffield and once a week at Josh's base at Brampton Bierlow.

Redwan will campaign at middleweight initially and had his second pro fight when he out-pointed Seamus Devlin at the Barnsley Metrodome last week.

As he gets back to training, Afghanistan and the plight of many of the people there back under Taliban rule is never far from his mind.

“It has been six or seven years and every time I look back and see where I have come from, it is unbelievable. I have to credit my family for that.

“I can't imagine myself being in Afghanistan at this moment. I see people dying through no fault of their own. The country has gone. I don't see it getting back on its feet.

“The terrorists put our religion in danger with their interpretation of Islam. That's not what it is. Even if I lost everything I have right now and my business went bankrupt, I would still be winning because I am somewhere safe and in a position to build myself back up.”

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MANAGER Josh Wale believes Redwan Nishat has the ability to make an impression as a pro boxer and add another chapter to his amazing young life.

Josh won the Lonsdale belt in his fighting days as a bantamweight and is well aware of Redwan's life story in Afghanistan.

He also believes the 23-year-old can mark his move to England by achieving things in the hardest game of all.

“It's still early days and it takes a lot to get to the higher levels but we certainly have hopes for him to get there,” he said.

“Redwan is naturally talented. He's a nice, compact boxer. He's grounded, very mature for his age, and he doesn't go out drinking.

“I'm really impressed with him.”

Josh works at Micky's Athletic Boxing Club at Brampton Bierlow with his dad, Mick, and they have a good relationship with Redwan's trainer, Ian Baines.

Josh added: “Redwan won the Yorkshire belt as an amateur. He was a national level amateur and could compete with any of them.

“Ian has always been in contact with me and my dad and he wanted us to look after him.

“He's 22 or 23 now and the time was right for him to turn professional.”

Nishat had his pro debut at Magna in September, winning a contest on points, and did the same at the Barnsley Metrodome last week.

Describing his style, he said: “I'm a sensible boxer, first and foremost. If someone comes to box, I can box. If someone comes to trade with me, I know how to trade.

“Having had that amateur experience helps me cope with both types of opponent.”