Dan Aharonov’s mother is not the most enthusiastic advocate of his boxing career ‑— and understandably so given that she works as a nurse. But it’s Aharonov’s opponents who have been in greater need of medical attention as he compiled an amateur record of 175 wins in 200 fights, 100 by stoppages.
Now the 18-year-old Israeli welterweight is about to turn professional and his manager-promoter Robert Waterman hopes that his first paid fight will be at a UK Jewish charity boxing dinner in the autumn.
He will be based in London and as someone for whom Jewish life is pivotal - he keeps kosher, lays tefillin and goes to synagogue on Friday evenings — he says “it is important to be near Golders Green”. An Israeli living here has agreed to fund his accommodation for a year.
Aharonov has a quiet, polite demeanour at odds with his aggression in his ring — his percentage of stoppages is high for the amateur game, where the contests are shorter and fighters wear protective headgear.
Over breakfast at his manager-promoter’s favourite Whetstone cafe, the Bat Yam native explains that he was just six when he first set foot in a boxing gym, following the lead of his elder brother. “I wanted to try it also and I loved it,” he recalls. “The coach told me to come back.”
By the age of 10, his trainers were convinced of his potential and he earned international honours from his early teens, earning a slew of medals in age group tournaments. With Israeli amateurs receiving little financial backing, he was indebted to his parents, originally from Azerbaijan, for funding his overseas trips.
After taking silver as a 16-year-old in the World Championships in Armenia, Aharonov decided that he wanted a professional career and was put in touch with Waterman by Roman Greenberg, the Israeli heavyweight who has not fought since a crushing defeat to American Cedric Boswell in 2008 ended a 27-fight unbeaten record.
Waterman was also in charge of Greenberg’s career and some of Greenberg’s sponsors will be backing the young prospect. Waterman retains great fondness for Greenberg, but sees significant differences between him and Aharonov.
“Roman trained hard but the problem was getting him to training," he said. "Dan has the hunger to succeed. He’s disciplined and very focused and can hit with both hands.” An additional virtue is his likely appeal to Jewish fight fans. “Roman was based in Maidenhead. Dan wants to be in the heart of the community.”
A potential trainer is Don Charles, who handles controversial heavyweight Dereck Chisora. Other colourful ring personalities feature in Aharonov’s list of favourite fighters, notably Mike Tyson: “Like him, I am shorter than opponents but I can punch to finish a fight.”
He recalls laughing that many who had lost to him in amateur bouts had not expected an Israeli to have such knockout potential. “I want to show everyone that a Jewish boy can fight.”