The UAE has always been a melting pot of cultures, bringing people together from all parts of the world for tourism, employment opportunities and at times to escape the political and social turbulence of one’s own country.
The Ahmadi brothers were just some of the people who left their home in Kabul, Afghanistan, a year ago so that they could exercise their passion for boxing in a safe environment.
Hasibullah Ahmadi, 18, and Ahmad Siar Ahmadi, 13, are two of three brothers, who are all heavily involved with Round10 boxing club. Hasib started boxing in Kabul at the age of 12, while Ahmad started just six months ago after being inspired by his older brother, saying with a beaming smile that he simply wants to be a champion.
“I was training to be boxer in Afghanistan, but as you know there is a war going on there so I moved here about one year ago,” the teenager told Sport360°.
“The resources we have got in Afghanistan are great for amateur boxing, but here in Dubai we are being trained for professional fight.”
He added: “I have seen a massive improvement in my style and technique ever since I started training here. The quality of the facility here is incomparable and I have the opportunity to train in a multinational environment which has taught me a lot about new skills and given me more experience.”
The boys live with their family in Ajman and though they don’t find any element of the sport challenging, their biggest hardship has been enduring the long and gruelling commute from their home to their gym in Dubai.
However, Hasib lauded the community in Round10 and their fellow gym-goers for carpooling with them. “For me, boxing isn’t hard. It’s just the fact that we live in Ajman and the commute from there to the gym is really exhausting,” he said.
“We are very lucky that our friends in the gym help us out but for me that’s the only difficult part.” Even though Ahmad is still relatively new to the sport, he has already made a name for himself on the amateur front as he rides a three-fight winning streak.
On the other hand, Hasib has got 20 amateur fights under his belt already, and after making his professional debut this year, the talented teenager already has three wins to his name.
The brothers have got big things in the pipeline for the year ahead, with Ahmad focused on training so he can make his professional debut, while Hasib has already signed up for more professional fights.
“Now I have three professional fights on my record that I have won so far,” said Hasib. “In 2019, I have six or seven fights lined up and then in 2020, I will be fighting for the belt.”
Whoever thought ‘fighting like a girl’ was an insult is definitely in for a rude awakening as more and more female fighters and boxers are taking centre stage and dominating what was widely considered a man’s sport.
Anahit Aroyan, 19, nicknamed ‘Arni’ is part of the new generation of female boxers who are constantly changing the landscape of the sport and paving the way for more young girls to follow in their footsteps.
She is a three-time Armenian champion at amateur level and then went on to become the golden gloves champion in Serbia.
“In the ring I feel like a boy, but outside of it I’m a girl,” said Aroyan.
While she was holidaying in Dubai with her mother, she decided to check out Round10 boxing club in Al Quoz for a sparring session.
The owners of the club were thoroughly impressed by her skills and style, and a simple visit culminated in her getting a full-time position as a trainer.
Aroyan, too, was amazed by the facility and the numerous opportunities the UAE opened up for her.
Despite her lack of command over English, Aroyan spoke to Sport360 about her move to Dubai and how she managed to forge her path into professional boxing after winning her debut fight last month.
“Back in Armenia, there were numerous times when I was sleeping in my boxing club, as I lived really far away. Living in Dubai is a lot more convenient for me and I have met some really talented boxers who have taught me so much and given me a lot of experience,” she said.
Aroyan is currently preparing for her next fight in Mumbai, India, on January 26 and for her training, the teenager prefers sparring with men more than women, as it helps her polish her technique and always teaches her something new.
She considers herself fortunate that her family was always supportive of her aspirations of becoming a boxer and even after she moved here, she found lots of love and support from her coach and colleagues at Round10.
However, she still had to deal with some mildly sexist remarks occasionally from some people who didn’t encourage women’s participation in the sport.
“You know when I was starting out, I heard a lot of people say that boxing is a man’s sport and why is a girl doing, but I never cared about what they were saying. I love boxing and it is my life. In fact, I am proud that I am a female boxer,” added Aroyan.
“It is hard being a boxer as a girl, as you always end up with bruises all over, but I love it. People often ask me if I am doing this for money, but I always tell them that I am doing this for myself and to become the world champion.”
When asked to elaborate further on her challenges, the Armenian simply gave a nonchalant shrug and said: “Whatever obstacles I had were difficult but not impossible to overcome. I don’t really think I had any obstacles or challenges, it was hard but my love for the sport kept me going.”
Josh Warrington is content to remain an underdog but hopes there can be no doubting his status as one of the world’s best featherweights after a barnstorming victory over Carl Frampton.
The two combatants engaged in a contender for fight of the year at the Manchester Arena but Warrington largely came out on top of the numerous bruising exchanges to earn a unanimous decision win.
Warrington – who prevailed by two scores of 116-112 and one of 116-113 – therefore made a successful first defence of the IBF featherweight title he wrenched from Lee Selby in May and took his perfect professional record to 28-0.
As he had been against Selby at his beloved Elland Road, Leeds fighter Warrington was given little chance of succeeding against the bookmakers’ favourite and former two-weight world champion Frampton.
Warrington, though, made a mockery of those predictions and, although he admitted to having some pre-fight jitters, expects to be given his due credit after upsetting the odds once again.
He said: “I like the (underdog) title, it takes the pressure off.
“There were times throughout (Saturday) where it’s been an emotional roller coaster, thinking ‘am I at this level?’ But then I think ‘don’t be daft. I’ve trained 12 weeks like a demon’.
“Once I stepped into this arena, there was no way I was getting beat. I’ve just got something inside me that just won’t let me get beat.
“Carl Frampton and Lee Selby in the same year, if you’d have said to someone at the start of the year ‘Josh Warrington is going to beat those two back-to-back’, they’d have laughed at you.
“Maybe people will really start taking note now. I’m not the fastest, I’m not the strongest, I’m not the most intelligent boxer or the flashest boxer in there, but I go in there and I always wear my heart on my sleeve.
“I’ve been doubted from English title level all the way to the very, very top but I’m still here and 28-0 now.”
The affable Warrington sported bruises to his head and had the middle and ring fingers on his right hand bandaged at the post-fight press conference following his savage battle with Frampton.
The pair showed a healthy respect for each other in the build-up and Warrington was full of warm words for his beaten foe.
Warrington said: “He’s still got my full respect. He’s a tough, tough, tough man. There were times this week when I thought to myself ‘why didn’t we just have a steady one? Why did we go straight in there with Carl?’
“I was a fan before and I’m still a fan now. He’ll go down as one of the great champions at super-bantam and featherweight.”
Always the underdog and he always steps up, they say boxing is about levels and @J_Warrington keeps breezing through them. Great for him and great for Leeds. Keep going boss and unify 🥊🥊 https://t.co/tjDOMe2XXH— Frank Bruno MBE (@frankbrunoboxer) 23 December 2018
The 28-year-old wants a unification fight across the Atlantic in the new year, with WBO champion Oscar Valdez, WBA titlist Leo Santa Cruz and WBC beltholder Gary Russell Jr in his sights.
He added: “Bring them on. They’re all brilliant fighters and I have respect for all of them but (I’ll fight) any one of them.
“I need to be a part of these big fights. I like it busy, it’s what keeps me going. Next year, we’ll take the boys Stateside, I wouldn’t mind a little away trip.”
Frampton’s future seems more uncertain after the second defeat of an illustrious professional career, with the 31-year-old Northern Irishman saying in the ring afterwards he would “figure out the next move”.
Frank Warren, who promotes both fighters and labelled Saturday night’s headliner “the best title fight I’ve ever seen in a British ring”, says he will back Frampton in whatever he chooses to do.
He said: “He’s not a stupid man, he’s a very sensible guy. I’m sure he’ll have a nice Christmas with his family and I don’t think this is the day to decide anything.
“He’ll go away and think about things and make a decision about what he wants to do in the future and whatever he wants to do, I’ll be 100 per cent with him.”