IBRAHIM Balla will use the adversity he faced in 2016 as motivation to start his year off in impressive fashion.
Just one fight removed from his only blemish as a professional, the former Olympian and two-divison Australian titleholder admits that he learnt a lot about himself during a difficult spell that started shortly after losing to Neil John Tabanao.
“Last year was a big learning lesson for me,” said Balla in an interview with Aus-Boxing. “It was more about myself mentally, overcoming my first loss and having to mature as a fighter last year and I really learnt a lot about myself.
I really believe I am a mature fighter now so early in my career.”
Prior to the Tabanao fight, Balla (10-1, 7 KOs) stormed through his opposition and in the process developed a reputation as an all-action fighter.
However, he has realised along the way that as he approaches title opportunities that take place over longer durations, he now has the time to pick his shots and work his away into fights.
“It’s hard to explain, but I realise that when I’m fighting I could have ten or twelve rounds to do my work and time myself,” he continued. “You don’t need to rush into it. It’s just about getting comfortable earlier on in the fight, taking my time and getting it done in my own pace.”
Despite the challenges that were presented to him last year, the Melburnian sees little getting in his way in 2017 as he begins his ascension towards a featherweight world title on Saturday night against the well-travelled and durable Filipino import Vergil Puton.
The 26-year-old has set his goals early and plans to enter the world ratings for the first time since entering the paid ranks before the year is out. As far as Balla is concerned, as long as he keeps winning, this is an inevitable outcome.
“I don’t see too many challenges for me in 2017, but I’d like to aim to get into the top ten in any of the sanctioning bodies,” he explained. “I will definitely be striving to break into the top ten at featherweight and then begin the climb up the ladder to ultimately a world title shot.”
“I just need to keep fighting and keep winning. I’ve been putting all the work into my training. I’ve just got to keep grinding away and putting that work in the bank.”
“Realistically, I would love to get five or six fights in by the end of the year that would be perfect,” he admitted. “That would keep me ring fit. I’d focus on the pad work and conditioning in between and straight off into another fight. That would be awesome.”
In Vergil Puton, Balla is facing a seasoned veteran that has faced some of the best prospects across three countries, including Japan, Phillipines and South Korea. Just like any opponent placed in front of him, Balla expects to face some resistance.
“Right now I’m just happy to be back in the ring in my hometown and being able to do my thing,” he concluded. “I don’t really know a great deal about my opponent. I know he is a tough Filipino that has never been stopped before.”
“He is meant to be a tough, durable fighter that will give me a tough fight to kickstart my year. I’m looking forward to the test.”
Photo: Steve Dilks/Hosking Promotions