Boxing starlet Muhammad Ali is being tipped to turn professional “within three years” after qualifying for the World Youth Championships for a second time.
The Keighley 17-year-old booked his ticket to Bulgaria next month by winning the 52kg division at the Three Nations in Edinburgh.
He defeated Welsh opponent Kane Shepherd and Scotland favourite Steven Boyle to earn his place in the Great Britain squad for Sofia.
Ali, who boxes out of Bury amateur club, has now won 61 out of 70 bouts and vastly-experienced coach Mike Jelley believes he is firmly on course to make the step up to the paid-for ranks.
“I don’t say this about most lads but within another three years I think he will go pro,” said Jelley, the man who discovered and nurtured Amir Khan.
“I don’t blame Ali if he does because I think he is good enough. He will be ready then.
“He is a lovely lad who just works and works. Sometimes he trains too hard because he wants to do so well and you have to hold him back a bit.
“He wants to go in the ring and knock them all out, which is impossible. He has got to learn to step off the gas at times but that will come – but he’s a smashing boxer.”
Ali comfortably saw off Shepherd in the semi-finals at the Meadowbank Sports Centre and followed up with another unanimous victory over Boyle.
The home-town boxer had been given a bye but Jelley felt it worked in Ali’s favour to have the extra bout.
“It was a big help because the Welsh lad was a southpaw, just like Boyle,” he said.
“Ali won every round but his timing was a little bit off, so it just got him ready for the final.
“Boyle is their top lad and has boxed all over the world. He’s got plenty of experience of big competitions but Ali was always on top.
“You could see Boyle was really tired at the end of the first round and Ali just kept on going. That’s what he does – he keeps on working and deserves everything he gets.”
Ali flies out to Bulgaria on April 10 and the tournament begins four days later. It will be his second appearance at World Youth level and Jelley is hoping for a kind draw.
“Last year he faced the Russian who went on to win the gold medal in the first round and only lost on a count back,” he said.
“It’s the luck of the draw but Ali’s got every chance of doing very well.”