Kerry Hope on Bilal Akkawy: “This will be his reality check”

THE narrative behind the career of Kerry Hope is one that has been told many times before.

The familiar hard-luck story of a fighter who has travelled the world, fighting as the opponent and more often than not, getting the short end of the stick.

After a successful career that was primarily fought in the United Kingdom, the well-travelled Welshman relocated to the sunny shores of Brisbane, looking to recapture the success of yesteryear.

It may have taken just over two years, but Hope (23-8, 2 KOs) has finally secured a fight against a fellow Australian in the form of promising super middleweight prospect Bilal Akkawy, whom Hope will challenge for a WBA affiliated regional bauble and a potential world rating on Sunday afternoon at Club Punchbowl.

As Hope admits, the longer-than-expected process of securing a local fight has been an at times frustrating ordeal.

“It’s been a frustrating process since moving here,” said Hope in an interview with Aus-Boxing. “I’ve never got to face an Australian opponent until now, but I’m happy with the Akkawy fight. I’ve had a few opponents mentioned, but they have been against inexperienced fighters. A fight is a fight – but I want competition that can put me back into the big picture – especially at this stage of my career. I’ve asked my manager for all the big names here, but nothing has come up until now.”

It doesn’t take long to come to the realisation that Hope freely speaks his mind. He sees the situation that he is in and knows that in reality, he is only one big win away from securing another opportunity abroad. And while he thinks little of Akkawy’s resume, he doesn’t mince words when breaking down his opponents record.

“I’m not taking nothing from Akkawy, he’s done what has been asked of him so far,” explained Hope. “He’s young and ambitious but he really doesn’t know what’s out there, I do. I’ve been in the ring with everything – boxers and legitimate punchers at various weights all over the world – this will be his reality check.”

“Akkawy has faced imports that have built their records in garden sheds. An undefeated record means nothing to me, but the draw he has on his record was really a loss and he knows it.”

The 35-year-old last fought in July, dropping a competitive decision to accomplished former Olympic representative and Commonwealth Games medallist Vijender Singh in New Delhi. While Hope didn’t earn the judges decision, he believes the fight was far closer than the landslide decision that was tallied against him.

“It’s always a hostile environment boxing in a foreign country, but my experience has helped me to deal with this,” he added. “It really is just me and my opponent in the ring – and no one can help either of us – I love that buzz. Okay, we didn’t come away from the Vijender fight with a win but the scores didn’t reflect my performance.”

“What do you expect in a country like India?” he quipped. “His punches were missing and the 10,000 strong crowd were screaming like I was hurt, but that’s what happens in away countries. It was the same when I fought in America. I won a fight there but didn’t get the decision.”

The loss to Singh was Hope’s first as a fully fledged super middleweight. Having successfully campaigned as a middleweight for just over a decade, Hope decided that the time was right to make the move up.

“The move to super middleweight was something I should’ve done a long time ago,” he continued. “On fight week I was losing eight kilos to make weight and still having to fight it out for ten or twelve rounds. I’ve struggled with weight for most of my career and it hasn’t done me and favours in regards to my knockout ratio, but now I feel comfortable and very strong.”

Despite his harsh breakdown of Akkawy’s record, there is an underlying respect for what the Sydney-based prospect is trying to achieve by stepping up and taking a fight that no other Australian wanted. Hope sees ambition in his younger opponent, but in the end believes that Akkawy has perhaps bitten off more than he can chew.

“I respect Akkawy like any other fighter,” Hope concluded. “He’s young and ambitious, like I have said. But I do see this fight as man versus boy. He can come in with whatever hype and confidence he wants, I’ve seen it all before and against fighters that are levels above him. I’m just happy I’ve finally got the chance to fight in Australia again and against my first local opponent.”