Confronted by the Taliban with AK-47’s as a child, trafficked across Europe and now agonisingly close to becoming a British champion
On Saturday night, Quaise Khademi came within touching distance of the British super flyweight title, as his trilogy bout with Ijaz Ahmed ended in a split decision draw.
In the ninth round, Khademi was docked a point for consistent holding and if it had not been for that, he would have won the fight by majority decision.
While this would have undoubtedly been frustrating for the Afghan-born Londoner, it is nothing compared to the adversity he has been forced to overcome before he even stepped foot in a boxing ring.
Growing up in Afghanistan, Khademi had a rough start to life. “I remember for my family, wherever we lived we were very scared,” he told talkSPORT.
“We would hear bomb noises and gunfire all the time, so we were always hiding, but I was too young to remember that much.”
Khademi’s father had built a very successful business and property portfolio and he would rent his houses out to Americans, but this meant he had a lot of enemies, especially those connected to the Taliban.
When he was just four-years-old, Khademi and his family fled the country and made their way across the border to Pakistan, where they thought they would be safe, but that was not the case.
“There were people after my dad and my family from Afghanistan and they came all the way to Pakistan after him,” Khademi recalled.
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“It was crazy, they pulled out an AK-47 and they hit him with the back of the gun to his head, so that was what made us more scared and we started on our journey to the UK.”
This was not as simple as it sounds, however, as it took two years for Khademi and his family to make their way over here. They had no money because it had all been stolen by the men who had attacked his father in Pakistan.
“My older brother was already in the UK,” Khademi explained. “He came in 1998. My dad phoned my brother and told him that we needed to get out of Pakistan and so he got [people] traffickers to pick us up at night time.
“They put us in a van and took us to an airport and we got fake visa’s and he took us to a country near Russia and from there we started travelling in cars and buses.”
“Everywhere that we went we would stay for a few nights, maybe a few weeks in small little dark rooms and we were being moved by traffickers and there was a big group of us.
“Certain times we wouldn’t even know what country we were in. We would be travelling in the boot of a car for 15-16 hours and stop in little places for a few nights and then another car would come and pick us up and take us to a different location.
“When we got into Germany, the traffickers left us in the jungle and we were all hungry. My father could see all the kids crying so we gave ourselves up to the police and they took us in and placed us in a hotel and we were there for about six months.
“We just wanted to stay there, it was comfortable and we were going to school and everything, but then my dad said, ‘no, this is not where the journey ends, we need to get to where we wanted to go,’ and that was London.
“So, we left and made our way to France and we were in a camp for four or five months. We were trying to get to the UK in the back of lorries, but they were going in different directions and on the third attempt we finally got here.”
Even when Khademi finally made it across the Channel, his struggles were not done there.
“My brother had a fish and chip shop here already in north London and so he took us in and looked after us, but everything he was making he had been sending to us, so it wasn’t a luxury life.
“It was a small little room that we all slept in and the conditions were bad, but we worked hard and it took us a year and half to get out of that place.
In terms of how Khademi found boxing, in what is a story typical of the sport, he fell in with the wrong crowd as a young man until he was saved.
“When school finished, I used to hang around people that I shouldn’t have and picking up bad habits. Being around bad people, my behaviour changed and I got in a lot of fights.
“I was around bad people and I had a lot of friends who… went to prison for 15 years, six years, four years and different times and they were very close friends, we would hang around together a lot.
“My family noticed that I was going in the wrong direction, so they pulled me back in and I decided to go to a boxing club that was local. Sport has always been something that takes you away from the road. I fell in love with it.
“I was glad that boxing took me out of that situation. If you put mouldy food with good food, within a few days that food will have gone off as well and that’s what it is. So, if you have negative people around you that attract bad intentions it will make you the same.”
Since finding boxing Khademi’s life has changed for the better as well as the lives of his family and while he has aspirations as a boxer his true ambitions lie outside of the ring.
“Now [my family] all own houses and businesses, so we have made a lot more than we could ever imagine and we’ve succeeded from where we’ve come from.
“I’m very grateful to be in a country that’s safe and secure, so I can’t complain and I’m sure there are a lot of people who would want to be where I’m at.
“My next target in the boxing ring is to inspire. I had a lot of friends just before I turned professional who were Afghani refugees and they were hanging around the road and selling drugs and they all went to prison.
“I thought if I can use my boxing to show these guys that there are better things to do and become successful then I can show the next generation coming up that this country has so much to offer, outside of just education, like sports and art and there are so many things.
“I also want to become a world champion, I’m hoping to be back out again in two months. Me being on the journey to get to this country, my family could have given up multiple times, but they still managed to travel for almost two years and get to where they need to get, so why can’t I?”
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