Dubai is a location primed to host boxing’s glitz and glamour. It’s a matter of when, not if, a world title fight will be held in the UAE. But that when seems so far away right now.
The biggest names – most recently Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan two years ago – have proposed clashes in the region, yet one of such magnitude has not occurred since Chris Eubank fought at the Aviation Club back in 1997.
That could soon change, though. The way to bring boxing to the region is either from the bottom up, or top down. Either the sport is slowly introduced with the seeds then growing to allow those at the top of the tree to visit, or a huge clash is hosted and the impact trickles down.
The former holds most weight. Muslim pugilist and former two-weight champ Badou Jack hosts his first combat sports promotion here in Dubai at the FIVE Palm Jumeirah on May 3 live on Fite.TV, and the hope is that this foray into the business side of boxing could lead to a title fight of his own in the region.
Jack, who fights under the banner of Mayweather Promotions, is emerging as a prominent name for boxing in the Middle East. The 35-year-old is targeting a return to the ring late in summer after suffering a points defeat to Marcus Browne earlier this year, albeit with the mitigating circumstance of a sickening cut to his forehead from a clash of heads.
In the meantime, the focus for the Swede and his team is fixed upon building boxing in Dubai.
“As far as other fights not coming off, I have my own speculation as to why they didn’t happen but put that to one side, it’s no coincidence that Badou Jack Promotions is launching in Dubai,” said Amer Abdallah, CEO of Badou Jack Promotions and Jack’s business manager.
“It’s not a coincidence that we brought Badou Jack, the only Muslim world champ, to Dubai because our absolute goal is to have him fight for a world title here. Floyd Mayweather after Badou’s last fight said ‘I’m going to get you another world title fight’.
“Last night I had a conversation with Leonard Ellerbe (CEO of Mayweather Promotions), who by the way is planning on making the trip to the event, and he said ‘absolutely, if the offer makes sense Mayweather Promotions is 100 percent behind Badou Jack fight in Dubai or in the UAE, or in the Middle East.
“There is no barrier, we just have to prove that this model works and we have to make May 3 an event, bring enough excitement to Five Palm Jumeirah and watch on Fite TV so that there is enough spark. Once we have a spark, we’ll blow on it and make it a fire but that’s what we need.”
One of the biggest barriers for boxing in the region is its brutal and barbaric perception.
Communicating the intricacies and nuances of the Sweet Science is one of the cornerstones for Badou Jack Promotions. This is not an event fixed on financial reward – the proceeds will be going to Jack’s foundation which has seen him spend time between fights in Jordan and Syria.
But the ripple effect to help lay the foundations for big boxing events is the initial aim.
“We’re not looking at this thing and counting our dollars and saying this makes sense,” Abdallah tells Sport360.
“The way that this thing makes sense is that people walk away from the event wanting more. It’s that the press, the spectators and the online viewers, the companies, sponsors, government and tourism industry all say this is what we need in the region.
“It then opens up the door, not just for Badou Jack Promotions, but for other boxing promotions that are here as well.
“People have to walk away saying ‘what an event’ and ‘how can we bring more of this’.”
One of the mechanisms to help hype events such as this will be the attendance of influential figures.
Former light-welterweight king Amir Khan is one such person who will be there, as will KSI.
The latter is a massive YouTube personality and after Jack walked the Briton out for his amateur clash with another internet superstar, Logan Paul, he’ll now be in attendance for this event as his coach Viddal Riley fights on the May 3 card.
Abdallah adds: “It’s funny, KSI came to Las Vegas, he came to the Mayweather Boxing Club, he trained with Floyd Sr. and he sparred with Badou. It was fun, they had a great time, a very private event of course but they had their own YouTube channel for it.
“Badou fights Adonis Stevenson, a legitimate fight, a unification title fight, a huge bout and I’m scrolling through the comments and one guy says ‘isn’t that guy who sparred KSI?’
“I’m thinking ‘what?!’. We’re so entwined in boxing that these guys have no idea about that so we’re bridging an entire demographic from an different market into the combat sports world.
“KSI is coming here to watch his coach fight, but he’s also looking at other opportunities that we’re lining up for him as well, in co-ordination with his team.”
Tickets for Badou Jack’s Knockout Night will be in limited supply but can be purchased from Friday via www.fivehotelsandresorts.com
The Fight DXB Uncovered, founded by Ahmed A Seddiqi’s Round 10 Boxing Club, partners with international boxing powerhouse MTK Global to bring a fight night like never witnessed before in Dubai.
With a multinational fight card, which includes professional boxers from every corner of the globe including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, North Africa, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland, The Fight DXB Uncovered promises an unforgettable night at Emirates Golf Club on April 5.
With the WBO European Featherweight and WBC International Super Flyweight titles up for grabs on the night, fans will be witness to two new champions being crowned.
22 Countries being represented, 22 exceptional professional boxers, 11 hotly anticipated fights, a once-in-a-lifetime experience where fans will witness the real birth of professional boxing in the UAE.
Two-time national champion, Majid Al-Naqbi, will make his professional debut on home soil as he proudly becomes only the second Emirati professional boxer. The 22-year-old from Fujairah’s first bout in the professional circuit is hotly anticipated following an impressive amateur career.
The WBC International Title is on the line at 115lb, where Dubai-based Nigerian Aliu Bamidele Lasisi, who is based in Round 10 Boxing Club, will enjoy some vociferous support in his bid for glory against Nicaragua’s experienced Keyvin Lara (26-3-1-KO9).
LOCAL FIGHTER REACHES NEW LEVELS FOR UAE
Saudi’s Zuhayr Al Qahtani will also take to the ring following his WBSS win in Jeddah in September 2018. Before becoming the Kingdom’s first-ever professional boxer, Al Qahtani ambitious amateur career saw him win 50 of his 55 fights.
🚨 GROUND-BREAKING SHOW 🚨— MTK Global 🌍 (@MTKGlobal) March 15, 2019
Olympians star on huge title-laden THE FIGHT DXB UNCOVERED show in #Dubai - LIVE on @ESPN & @iFLTV.
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📆 April 5
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David Oliver Joyce and Stephen Tiffney will clash for the WBO European Featherweight Title for the second title up for grabs on The Fight DXB Uncovered show in Dubai, that also includes Olympic gold medalist Shakhobidin Zoirov.
The event will be broadcast live on both ESPN and iFL TV.
Ireland’s undefeated Joyce (9-0-KO7) – an Olympian himself – is hoping to secure his first major title as a professional but standing in his way is popular Scot Tiffney (10-1-KO4), who has recovered from his sole career defeat with impressive back-to-back wins.
Also on the card, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist and flyweight champion Zoirov makes his eagerly awaited professional debut having signed up as an MTK Global fighter last year alongside another elite Uzbeki amateur talent in Hurshid Tojibaev.
One man to have raced to prominence early in his time in the paid ranks is Kazakhstan’s Sultan Zaurbek (5-0-KO3), who faces China’s Yuancai Zhu – and there are other attractive international match-ups throughout a ground-breaking card.
Australia’s heavy hitting youngster Mateo Tapia (9-0-KO5) is widely tipped for the world stage and takes on a graduation fight against India’s Gaganpreet Sharma (8-1-KO4), while London-based Saudi Arabian Zuhayr Al-Qahtani (5-0) continues his rise against another Indian in SK Saheb.
Earlier on in the evening, the Philippines’ Larry Abarra, Afghanistan’s Hasibullah Ahmadi, Armenia’s Anahit Aroyan will all jostle for the limelight on this truly global event.
Deontay Wilder has been ordered to defend his WBC heavyweight title against mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale.
With negotiations, also ordered by the WBC, for the rematch between Wilder and Tyson Fury ending without an agreement, Breazeale is almost certain to become his next challenger in New York on May 18.
Fury intends to face at least one lower-profile opponent – understood to be on May 11 or in June – before potentially revisiting the rematch.
With IBF, WBA and WBO champion Anthony Joshua fighting Jarrell Miller in New York on June 1, the world’s three leading heavyweights will again be separately engaged.
Though unsurprising, the development will also again frustrate Dillian Whyte who, after missing out on Joshua, had targeted both Wilder and Breazeale.
“WBC world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder shall fulfil his mandatory obligations by fighting Dominic Breazeale next,” the WBC wrote in a statement.
“This order constitutes the start of the free negotiations period for champion Wilder’s mandatory defence of his title.
“If no agreement is reached between the camps, the WBC shall conduct a purse offer ceremony on April 4, 2019 at the WBC offices in Mexico City.”
Breazeale, like Wilder aged 33, lost to Joshua in seven rounds for the IBF title in June 2016. Wilder did not win for the first time in 41 fights as a professional when drawing with Fury last December.