European Championships 2015: Ali hopes to emulate Amir Khan

By Ben DirsBBC Sport
Muhammad Ali going for Euro boxing gold
European Amateur Boxing Championships
Venue: Samokov, Bulgaria Dates: 5-15 August
Coverage: BBC Red Button from 12:30-15:00 BST and smart TVs, online & app only from 18:00-20:30 on 14 August. BBC Red Button from 16:30-19:30 on 15 August. Highlights on BBC Two from 14:00-14:50 on 16 August.

Yorkshire flyweight Muhammad Ali said his famous name was no longer a burden ahead of the European Championships in Bulgaria, which start on Wednesday.

Ali is part of a seven-man British team competing in Sofia between 5-15 August, with qualification for September's World Championships in Doha at stake.

In April, Ali won an ABA senior title in only his third senior fight.external-link

"At first being called Muhammad Ali brought a lot of pressure," the 19-year-old Ali told BBC Sport.

"But now I'm winning titles and proving that maybe I'll turn out to be half as good as him."

However, Ali's boxing hero as a child was not his legendary heavyweight namesake but former Olympic silver medallist and professional world champion Amir Khan.external-link

GB Boxing team for European Championships
Harvey HornEnglandLight-flyweight (49kg)
Muhammad AliEnglandFlyweight (52kg)
Qais AshfaqEnglandBantamweight (56kg)
Joe CordinaWalesLightweight (60kg)
Pat McCormackEnglandLight-welterweight (64kg)
Troy WilliamsonEnglandMiddleweight (75kg)
Joshua BuatsiEnglandLight-heavyweight (81kg)

Like Khan, Ali is a product of Bury Amateur Boxing Club, where he is trained by Khan's former mentor Mick Jelley.

"I started boxing because of Amir Khan, I remember watching him at the 2004 Olympics," said Ali, who usually goes by the name 'Mo'.

"He's given me loads of advice and been very supportive. He's told me to knuckle down and that it will be a hard path, but that if I train hard I will get there."

Ali, originally from Keighley, won a bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games last year, a silver at the World Youth Championships and a gold at the European Youth Championships.

He also competed at the European Games in Baku in June, where he lost against Italy's Vincenzo Picardi in the last 16 after suffering a cut in the opening round.

And Jelley believes Ali has the ingredients to emulate Khan by qualifying for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, before carving out a successful pro career.

"I've only ever told one lad to turn pro and that was Amir Khan," Jelley, who also trained current WBA super-bantamweight champion Scott Quigg, told BBC Sport.

"But Mo wants to go pro eventually and I think he's good enough to go all the way.

"To be honest, I'm not sure we'll get many [British] lads qualifying for the Olympics but if we only get one, I hope it's Mo."

Six English boxers and one Welshman will compete in Sofia, with the top six in each division qualifying for the Worlds in Doha, which in turn is an Olympic qualifying event.

Liverpool's Anthony Fowler, who won middleweight gold at last year's Commonwealth Games, has withdrawn because of a nose injury and been replaced by Darlington's Troy Williamson.

Super-heavyweight Joe Joyce and welterweight Josh Kelly qualified for the Worlds by winning gold and bronze respectively at the European Games and will not compete in Sofia.

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