Arab puncher Manuel Charr ready to beat Fres Oquendo in his own backyard

Manuel Charr celebrates winning the world heavyweight belt in November. (Reuters)
Updated 14 February 2018
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Arab puncher Manuel Charr ready to beat Fres Oquendo in his own backyard

LONDON: Manuel Charr, the world’s first Arab heavyweight boxing champion, will make the first defense of his WBA title this spring and move one step closer to a super fight with the division’s highest-profile fighters.
The Lebanese-German will fight mandatory challenger Fres Oquendo on May 4 in Chicago after Oquendo’s camp successfully bid for the promotional rights to the fight. POW Sports, which is part of Oquendo’s team, bid $600,000 to easily beat a $101,000 offer from Charr’s camp at the WBA purse bid. The fighters will split the winning bid 50-50. Confirmation of the winning bid comes almost three months after the WBA first initiated negotiations for their fight, but an inability to come to an agreement meant that purse bids were then ordered.
Charr and his promoters had hoped to stage the fight on April 7 in Cologne, given Germany is where he has mostly fought, but he will now fight outside of Europe for the first time.
“It is always better to fight in front of your home fans, but Chicago is a beautiful city, and I have many fans in the United States, so I am looking forward to the fight,” said Charr. “I know and respect Fres. If I have to beat him in front of his home crowd, then so be it. I hope that many fans will come to support me. It will be a great experience and hopefully an exciting fight.”
Charr was born in Beirut but raised in Germany from the age of five. He dedicated his title win over Alexander Ustinov in November “to Germany, the country which gave me a chance and built me up.”
“Of course, we would have loved to stage the fight in Germany, but we are also happy to travel to Chicago,” said Bernd Trendelkamp, Charr’s promoter. “We always knew that there was a risk we would lose the bid but we had planned to bring Manuel to the States anyways. Now we don’t have to pay for it and promote ourselves so we are very happy with the outcome.”
Charr, 33, has won 31 of his 35 fights, including 17 by knockout, and he will be the favorite against Oquendo, who will turn 45 a month before the fight and who has, partly owing to injury, been inactive since July 2014 when he lost a majority decision to Uzbekistan’s Ruslan Chagaev.
Oquendo earned the status of mandatory challenger with the WBA through a federal court order he pursued after not being given the rematch with Chagaev he had been promised.
Victory in Chicago — where, incidentally, there had been interest in staging the World Boxing Super Series final between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev scheduled for Jeddah on May 11 — will take either Charr or Oquendo into contention for an eventual fight with IBF and WBA super heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, or another of the division’s highest-profile fighters.
The returning Tyson Fury has already called out Charr. “Tell me I’m not gonna take over the division once again!” tweeted Fury last month. “Wilder AJ Parker Charr watch out as the boggy man is coming for you! I’ll see you in your nightmares! GYPSYKING WILL REIGN OVER THE WORLD.”
Charr’s rise up the rankings, to hold one of the heavyweight belts, is remarkable when you consider the setbacks he has had to overcome. He was stabbed in the back at the age of 16 and then, in September 2015, he was left fighting for his life after being shot in the stomach following an altercation at a kebab restaurant. He returned to the ring just seven months later, bearing the scars of the attack on his abdomen. Then came another setback earlier last year when both hips had to be replaced.


London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

Updated 16 August 2018
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London clash between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad a chance to showcase Saudi football to the world, says SAFF

  • Super Cup final in UK capital can boost Saudi football's image around the world, claims SAFF official
  • SAFF defends number of foreign players allowed to play in Saudi Pro League claiming they help raise the standard.

LONDON: Saturday’s Super Cup final between Al-Hilal and Al-Ittihad in London will not just be a great experience for the players, but also a chance to showcase the best of Saudi Arabian football on an international stage ahead of what should be a season to remember.
That is according to Luai Al-Subaiey, the General Secretary of the Saudi Arabia Football Federation (SAFF)ahead of the cup clash at Loftus Road, the home of Queen’s Park Rangers. The match is the traditional season curtain-raiser that features the champions and the winners of the King’s Cup. And with holding fixtures overseas a growing trend in modern football, Al-Subaiey told Arab News the decision to play the match in London was a no-brainer.
“Club teams from one country playing in another country is commonplace,” Al-Subaiey said.
“Teams from the English, German, Spanish, French, Italian and Portuguese leagues played in the US this summer. The Spanish Super Cup was played in Morocco last week.
“We do it because it is good for our players to gather more international experience, to learn what it’s like to play in large overseas stadia, and of course, there is a large Saudi Arabian and Middle Eastern population living and working in London, (roughly) 300,000 people there.”
Al-Subaiey and Co. are confident that a great game in London this Saturday will be a springboard to a great season to come, especially with leading clubs in the country active in the international transfer market.
With eight overseas players allowed in Saudi Arabian teams in the upcoming Saudi Pro League season, there have been concerns that opportunities for local talent could be reduced. Al-Subaiey, however, believes that importing quality players can only be a good thing.
“Foreign players in the Saudi League will help improve the quality of football,” he said.
“But it also needs to be managed and balanced with the need to nourish domestic talent and provide our homegrown players with a pathway to the top.”
International stars such as Omar Abdulrahman have a part to play in the development of the Saudi Pro League and its ambition to be one of the leading leagues in the world. The United Arab Emirates playmaker joined Al-Hilal earlier in August in a season-long loan deal worth a reported $15 million — the second highest in football history.
As well as Abdulrahman, Al-Hilal have signed Peruvian international Andre Carrillo, who scored at the World Cup this summer, as well as former Barcelona defender Alberto Botia. Al-Nassr have bought Nigerian international Ahmed Musa from Leicester City and Nordin Amrabat from Watford.
“Has Wayne Rooney added something to DC United and the MLS? Has Omar Abdulrahman added to Al-Hilal? Of course, additions like these improve the quality of football,” Al-Subaiey said. “For the fans, these players bring excitement, and for the clubs and their league, these players bring a higher profile and greater attention — but there is something deeper too.”
For the official, what the best players bring is attitude and the utmost professionalism.
“Central to high performance sport is the right mindset. People like Rooney and Abdulrahman bring a great work ethic and possess great skills — but they also possess a professional mindset. And the young players who will work with them will see this, experience this — and learn from this.”
If all goes according to plan Saudi Arabia will qualify for the 2022 World Cup and perhaps even
progress to the second round for the first time since 1994. In Russia the Green Falcons started off with a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of the hosts in the opening game in Moscow. The team tightened up before losing narrowly to Uruguay, and then going on to beat Egypt 2-1 in the final game.
“We were absolutely delighted to be at the World Cup,” Al-Subaiey said.
“As you can tell with teams like Italy, Holland and the USA not qualifying and teams like Germany and Argentina not progressing (far in the tournament), the standard of play in international football is very high.
“Our particular group was quite challenging, and our initial game against host Russia, one of the biggest surprises of the World Group, was a difficult first match. Our final game, our win against Egypt, was a World Cup high point for our team. It was a match our young players and our national program can build on.”