White Collar DXB: Matching Mayweather

Mark Lomas 30/09/2015
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Sport360's Mark Lomas: A Butterbean or Joe Calzaghe in the making?

Sport360’s Online Managing Editor Mark Lomas is trying to channel his inner Joe Calzaghe as a contestant on White Collar DXB. Read about his experience here.

Believe it or not, I have the same boxing win percentage as Floyd Mayweather. Sure, ‘Money’ may have won 48 more fights than me but, still, it’s got a good ring to it, right?

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Mayweather equals record with unanimous decision

– VIDEO: Mayweather – I’m always 10 steps ahead 
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Last week, my first ever boxing match was broadcast on OSN 4. Unfortunately this wasn’t because I have signed a multi-million pound, multi-fight deal with the satellite broadcaster (though don’t rule it out in the future), but because I am a contestant on Dubai-based reality TV show White Collar DXB. The premise is that two teams of eight, one Blue and one Red, train for eight weeks before facing off on a final fight night. The twist being that a team of eight reserves are waiting in the wings to take their spots.

After two gruelling days of trials – read all about it in the first diary entry – I was picked for the show, clearly because they needed someone whose ability to produce a soundbite was sharper than his footwork. “I’m Mark ‘The Lumberjack’ Lomas, and I’ll chop you down.” Awful I know, but I did always love WWE as a youngster and Bret Hart would surely have been proud of that one.  

Placed on the Blue Team, KO Gym in Dubai Marina has been my second home for the past few weeks. It’s a great atmosphere, a real family environment fostered by a real family. Samoan Zack Taumafai, ably assisted by his daughter Dee and son Vic, arrived in the UAE in 2005 and is a veteran when it comes to White Collar; Zack has trained wannabes from all walks of life over the past decade in Dubai.

He is very much a man of the old school. Your ribs feeling sore? “Ice them”. Head hurts? “Ice it”. Arm no longer attached to your body? “Stick it in some ice.” In all seriousness though, Zack is a great character and an even better coach. He calls a spade a spade and promotes loyalty, discipline and sportsmanship. The excesses of modern boxing, such as Mayweather’s suitcases full of cash, are abhorrent to him, as they are to the many who dedicate their lives to the sport at its grassroots.

It turns out boxing is tough. Who’d have thought it? With two sessions a day – one at 6am, another at 6.30pm – three days a week, our motley crew was thrown in at the deep end. Before we started, most of us associated the word ‘jab’ with a hospital, ‘straight’ with a ruler and ‘hook’ with a damn fine film starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffmann. Now, this boxing lexicon is drilled into us. When drifting off to sleep, we’re counting combos not sheep.

Zack Taumafai: Chiselled from Samoan steel.

It was a tough routine to settle into but surprisingly, settle in is exactly what we did – the extra pressures of the TV cameras ensuring no-one wanted to be seen giving less than their all in every session. After a week of hard graft, however, we lost the first challenge, an obstacle course at Wadi Adventure in Al Ain. I’m still having nightmares about the mess I made of climbing the cargo net.  It meant that two of us would be chosen to fight to keep our place on the team. I was one of them.

It wasn’t that surprising. In our sparring sessions in week one, I’d shown an unfathomable propensity for lifting my knees when someone threw punches at me. It bore little resemblance to boxing. A fear of being struck and a feeling of guilt when making contact with an opponent’s face was crippling, leaving me in a sort of pugilistic purgatory, in which I neither wanted to hit nor be hit.

This approach left me with a black eye and a bruised ego in just one session, and I seriously thought about quitting, such was the feeling of uselessness. But, like any good reality TV contestant, I opted instead to strap myself back on the emotional rollercoaster and plugged away at improving both my fitness and technique.

Saturday came quickly and as I ungracefully stepped into the ring –Prince Naseem would have been ashamed – the nerves and adrenaline coursed through me. My opponent was Mohammed, a mighty Palestinian weighing in at around 125kg. For once in my life, I had a speed advantage over someone, but in terms of strength, it was no contest.

The fight itself was a bit of a blur. Zack shouted instructions from my corner and I tried to execute them as best I could. The gameplan was to keep moving, to tire Mohamed out – kind of like the Viper vs the Mountain from Game of Thrones, only (hopefully) without the grisly eye-gouging part. He landed a couple of huge haymakers, his gloves feeling like hammers against my ribs. I survived the first round and actually landed a few shots, remarkably winning the round in the eyes of the judges despite my battered diaphragm seemingly telling a different story.

In round two, the confidence grew and Mohammed was given a standing eight count after my half-decent combo connected. In the third round, I knocked him down. It was invigorating. I had knocked a fellow man to the ground. With my fist. Had the switch finally flicked? In fairness to Mohammed, whose heart is as big as his burly physique, he got up. But by that stage, the result was a certainty.

Mark vs Mohammed aka The Viper vs The Mountain.

At the end of the third round, the judge raised my hand in what was a moment to rival the few noteworthy sporting achievements I have had in my life. Hole in one: check. Finish the London Marathon: check. Win a boxing match: check. All the emotion, all the doubts – it had all been worth it for that sweet moment. The Lumberjack, 1 and 0. 

White Collar DXB airs at 20.00 GST every Wednesday on OSN 4. 

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Fedor Emileanenko (c) is returning but not in the UFC.

We’ve reached a sort of “off season” in the sport of mixed martial arts.

The UFC (and rival promoters) work unlike any other sport in that there are no scheduled championships, no play-offs and no set dates in which to build your marketing calendar around.

In mixed martial arts, it is more ebbs and flows.

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For instance, between September 6 and November 14, a span of two months and eight days, we get one male championship fight. That’s an ebb.

From November 15 until January 2, 2016, a span of just over one and a half months, we’re treated to the following: Ronda Rousey v Holly Holm, Chris Weidman v Luke Rockhold, Conor McGregor v Jose Aldo, Donald Cerrone v Rafael Dos Anjos and Robbie Lawler v Carlos Condit. That’s a flow, ladies and gentleman.

Heck, that’s not even a flow… that’s a damn avalanche.

Of course, we all know the UFC’s recent history with injuries and it’s not pretty, so let’s hope I didn’t just jinx that wonderful calendar of fighting fun.

But, just like any other sport’s off-season, there are plenty of story lines that are worth following if you’re a fan of mixed martial arts.

Where to begin…well, there was that catastrophe the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) calleda hearing. You know, the one where they fined a very popular fighter $165,000 and banned him for five years for using recreational drugs.

I’m no expert, but shouldn’t they be looking out for the safety of the fighters in these hearings rather than focus on a recreational druguser who gains no benefit by using medical marijuana, as far as fighting ability goes?

Nick Diaz’s juiced-up counterpart in that fight that he popped dirty for, Anderson Silva, was only banned for one year. For steroids. Something that can cause legitimate danger to an opponent’s long-term health.

That doesn’t seem to make sense until you remember that the NSAC has routinely displayed reactionary disciplines based on how much remorse (no matter how genuine) was displayed.

Nick Diaz effectively shunned them when he took the Fifth Amendment on each question, and as a result (if this ban holds) his career is more than likely over.

Of course, that wasn’t the only big news. If you haven’t heard the heavyweight GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) has decided to un-retire and come back for one last hurrah.

You can hardly blame Fedor Emelianenko for wanting to come out of retirement after seeing the current stable of fighters at the top of the food chain.

Fabricio Werdum, Frank Mir, Andrei Arlovski, and Mark Hunt were in their physical primes 10 years ago. Yes, that’s how shallow the current pool of heavyweight fighters is.

And Fedor has better than a half chance against each of them, except that he won’t be fighting any of them.

Nope, Fedor will be fighting in a new promotion that is run by former PRIDE Chief Nobuyuki Sakakakibara with who Fedor has a long relationship.

So who will he be fighting? Good question. Umm, hopefully not Kimbo Slice?

As thin as the heavyweight division is in the UFC, it’s much, much worse in other promotions.

All the best fights with Fedor Emelianenko are in the UFC: Fedor v Werdum, Fedor v Arlovski, heck… you could even talk me in to Fedor v Dan Henderson.

Fedor never seemed to be about the money, but this one feels like a pure money grab.

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Courtesy of our friends at Fight Analytics, Sport360 is bringing you live coverage of UFC Fight Night 75, headlined by Josh 'The Warmaster' Barnett vs Roy 'Big Country' Nelson.

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It's UFC's first event in Japan for more than a year and there will be a number of talented Asian fighters on the card at Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan.

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UFC Fight Night 75 starts at 6am GST on Sunday, September 27. 

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