The heatwave sweeping the UK right now is no bother to Hamzah Sheeraz, after all, having spent eight weeks training in Los Angeles, and spent many an afternoon sweating in the Wild Card gym, Sheeraz is used to coping with the heat.
The unbeaten middleweight is back on home soil on Saturday night when he faces Argentina’s Francisco Torres at the Copper Box in East London, about four miles from his Ilford home.
But home from home is now LA, where he has just completed his fourth full camp under Ricky Funez. Training in California might seem like fun, but it is anything but that for Sheeraz.
“When everyone hears that you are going to California to train, they think ‘wow’,” he said. “It is only when you have been there, seen it or done it, then you understand how much hard work it actually takes. Most people think it is gym in the morning, beach in the afternoon.
“One of my mates came out for the first two weeks of camp and, before he went, he was all excited – LA, glitz and glamour. But when I went out there, my life was just go to the gym, come home, sleep – go to the gym, come home, sleep. At the end of it he just went ‘is this all it is?’ I said ‘I did warn you’. He was meant to come for two weeks but went home after a week.”
Nothing distracts Sheeraz from the routine.
“My home gym is the Tengoose boxing gym, where Joe Goossen trains out of,” he said. “He has a good stable of fighters this time – Frank Sanchez, Ryan Garcia, he has a couple of Cubans. We are training at the same time as them and if you are in company like that, you can’t really go wrong.
“I’m living about a ten-minute drive from the gym in the Valley area. This time it was so hot, it was like living in an oven. You are in a valley, so you are surrounded by mountains and the heat just gets trapped in there – it helped with the weight.
“I wouldn’t say it gets easier, but it is becoming a home away from home. My first camp, I was very excited to get back to England and fight. But before you know it you are back out there. I have accepted it now that I will spent most of my time out there if I am as successful as I want to be, you have to put in that work. You have to make the sacrifices if you want the chance to be great.”
Sheeraz has got used to LA life now and getting the most out of his time there, which means you have to raise your game every sparring session.
“I was over in LA for eight weeks, a brilliant camp, probably the best one yet, although I know you have probably heard that a fair few times,” he said. “But it was the smoothest one I had, I did all my sparring at the Wild Card gym and learnt a lot from Freddie Roach as well as my coach.
“It is a great atmosphere at the Wild Card. I walked in the second time I was there and there were a group of Mexicans in there. I thought nothing of it, we had a brilliant spar and you come out and you find out he was the one who fought Errol Spence for the IBF title. You can’t beat experiences like that.
“It is never organized. You never go there and know who you are sparring. It is just whoever is either one weight below you or above you, you spar. If you want to do eight rounds, you are in there for eight rounds. If you want to do ten rounds, you are in there for ten rounds. I’m blessed to have Ricky as my coach because of the respect he has with Freddie that he allows us to use his gym.
“Whoever you spar in the Wild Card is going to be good. Those are great learning rounds.”
At 23 and unbeaten in 15 fights, Sheeraz’s reputation is growing, although he missed the biggest night of his career to date when being in Los Angeles meant he was unable to collect his Young Boxer of the Year award from the Boxing Writers’ Club in person in May.
“I wanted to go, but if I did come back it would have messed my camp up,” he said. “I had been out for three weeks and I was just about to start sparring, so I thought it would be the wrong thing to do. I was at the last one, when Daniel Dubois won. And I will definitely come along for the next one.”
Going to LA is only part of what he is doing in his attempt to be the best he can be. Last week he hosted an open day at HUM2N, a clinic in west London, where he goes for regular cryotherapy and oxygen treatment to help him recover from training sessions.
“I have been coming here about three years,” he said. “When I first came I thought I would come here, say hello, do a bit of cryo and go home. But when I started getting ready for ten-round fights, I started realising I needed it a lot more.
“For me as a fighter, minimizing the inflammation in my body after sparring is what cryo is perfect for and an oxygen chamber is perfect for recovery. It’s good to share the knowledge with people.”
Saturday’s fight is only his second at middleweight, after stopping Jez Smith in March. Standing 6ft 4in, staying at super-welterweight was never going to be a long-term arrangement, but he has felt the benefit of the extra six pounds.
“The move to middleweight is probably the greatest thing I have done,” he said. “I was calling for it two fights before but I knew if I pushed it, I could make it. Once I realized it affected my performance, I knew I had to make a change, so sat down with Frank (Warren) and Andy (Ayling, his manager). They said it was the right thing to do – I’m young, I have my career in front of me. It’s not like I have a world title to defend.
“I felt great the last fight. I’m not saying Jez Smith is a world-class operator, but he is a tough man and doesn’t normally get stopped like that. I got rid of him with ease and the weight helped with that.”
Torres, who drew with Jose Benavidez last year, is another step up.
“I know he is a very tricky customer and he is going to come and try to take my head off,” Sheeraz said. “This is where I want to be. I’m 16 fights in, I’m not rushing, but the steps we are taking are perfect. Hopefully, when the time is right, I will have a world title around my waist.
“God willing everything goes well. If they want me out again in October, I will probably only be here for two or three weeks and it will be back out to LA. I’ve accepted it.”
Ron Lewis is a senior writer for BoxingScene. He was Boxing Correspondent for The Times, where he worked from 2001-2019 – covering four Olympic Games and numerous world title fights across the globe. He has written about boxing for a wide variety of publications worldwide since the 1980s.