‘I am up to five in the world, but I can go higher’
Olympic boxer Hussein Ishaiash is a man on a mission!
At just 21 years of age, Hussein captured the hearts of the nation this summer when he took on the giant world champion Tony Yoka in front of a packed Olympic arena in the super heavyweight quarter final bout.
Giving away 10cm in height and 10kg in weight to the red hot favourite, Hussein went toe-to-toe with the huge Frenchman in front of a prime time Jordanian TV audience.
He lost the fight to Yoka who went on to win gold, but such was his brave performance he received a standing ovation from the Rio crowd and was heralded as a hero back home.
“I will never forget receiving a call from His Royal Highness Prince Feisal Al Hussein (Jordan Olympic Committee President) straight after the fight and saying I had done Jordan proud. It was a special moment for me,” said Hussein.
“It felt like the whole of Jordan was watching and this has encouraged me to go on and improve. I am currently number five in the world but I know I can go higher.”
Hussein and his coaches have a plan. As the world could see in Rio, he is considered a ‘small’ super heavyweight so work has begun on turning him into a contender in the heavyweight division (-91kg).
“I have already started to train harder because I put weight on after the Olympics when I took some time out. But I am losing that weight now and intend to go further and move down a category to heavyweight for the upcoming competitions.
“I am working hard on my physical and mental condition as competing at the Olympics has taught me a lot. It showed me how much harder I need to graft to become a champion.
“I am focused now on improving and being a part of Tokyo 2020 where I know I can medal.”
Hussein was in the stadium supporting his Team Jordan teammate Ahmad Abu Ghaush when he took that historic gold in taekwondo. There’s no doubt his success has rubbed off on the sporting community as a whole.
“We can all learn from Ahmad,” he said. “He showed that we can be the best as Jordanians and I want to do the same. Hearing the national anthem played at the Olympics was a special moment. I want to make sure it is played next time in Tokyo.”
Hussein hails from the Baqa’ area which has produced some of Jordan’s best boxers over the years with the sport playing a key role in keeping youngsters on the straight and narrow. Following his impact in Rio he knows that his position as an icon transcends sport.
“I want to show these kids that boxing can change their lives like it did to me. Boxing has helped me develop and it has become such an important part of who I am.”
He may not have returned from Rio with a medal around his neck, but Hussein is very much becoming the sort of national hero we can all draw some inspiration from.