Rising western suburbs boxing star Ibrahim Balla has vowed to “stay humble and keep working hard” after landing the WBA Oceania featherweight title.
It is the title belt that could see the Hoppers Crossing-raised fighter move sharply up the WBA rankings and open doors to the world.
“Winning that title potentially gets you rated top 15 in the world,” Balla, who trains at The Gym Yarraville, said.
“You’re climbing up the world ladder, you know, fights overseas, in America and all over the world.
“I’ll just keep moving up, but I’ll keep focused, don’t get too far ahead of yourself.
“I’ve still got a long way to go before I can really start to celebrate.”
Balla took the victory over undefeated Tanzanian Salimu Jengo by unanimous decision at the Melbourne Park Function Centre. All three judges scored the fight in Balla’s favour 99-91, 96-94 and 98-92.
It was a win to savour for Balla, who’s last fight for an international title ended in defeat.
“I’m feeling pretty good right about now,” the Rockbank resident said. “I know that we’ve put a lot of hard work in throughout this year, so it’s very rewarding and satisfying right now.”
Balla was made to go the distance to take the title. It was the early rounds when he felt that he edged the fight.
With rounds in the bank, Balla was able to dictate the terms in the late rounds.
“I thought I was setting the pace and dominating from the start,” he said.
“He sort of had to change his tactics and be more on his bike in the latter half of the fight, but he changed up his strategy and went the distance.
“It was a comfortable win from my side.
“I pretty much stuck to the game plan, stuck to the basics of boxing, keeping the jab going, nice straight punches and that won me the fight.
“That’s part of being a professional, you’ve got to dictate the pace.”
Balla’s experience was crucial in the match-up. The 27-year-old has a five year age gap over his opponent, four more professional bouts and Olympic Games experience to draw upon.
“I think my experience played a big role in the fight,” he said. “I was more calm and composed than what he was.
“He came down to fight, that’s for sure, but I out-boxed him on the night.”
Balla thanked the Melbourne sporting public for coming out to cheer him to victory.
He was thrilled to be able to salute for his trainer Lim Jeka and all the other people in his corner.
“They’ve put a lot of hard work in for me,” Balla said. “I get the spotlight of winning the title, but my team is the reason why I’m here.”