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

Manuel Charr celebrates winning the world heavyweight belt in November. (Reuters)
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.