‘Arabian Warrior’ Zuhayr Al-Qahtani excited to fight in homeland of Saudi Arabia

Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is ready to make history when he becomes the first professional Saudi Arabian boxer to fight in the Kingdom. (MTK Global)
Updated 14 September 2018
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‘Arabian Warrior’ Zuhayr Al-Qahtani excited to fight in homeland of Saudi Arabia

  • Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is ready to make history when he becomes the first professional Saudi Arabian boxer to fight in the Kingdom
  • The identity of Triple Z’s opponent at super-lightweight will not be confirmed until next week

LONDON: Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is ready to make history when he becomes the first professional Saudi Arabian boxer to fight in the Kingdom and has warned fans “not to blink” as he promises to bring entertainment to Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City on September 28.
Al-Qahtani has been confirmed on the undercard of the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final between George Groves and Callum Smith, realizing a dream of competing in his birthplace he’s held since he first picked up a pair of gloves in his teens.
The identity of Triple Z’s opponent at super-lightweight will not be confirmed until next week but the 29-year-old has promised to put on a show in Jeddah as he builds for a shot at the Asian title next year.
When asked by Arab News as to what the crowd should expect, he replied: “The rise of the Arabian Warrior. This is the beginning. I’m ready to make history. I only bring excitement to my fights, they’re never boring. Keep your eyes open and try not to blink.
“Given the level I’ve been training at, I don’t think any fighter, anyone, can beat me over four rounds so I’m not really worried about who they put me with.
“Without trying to sound cocky, I do believe unless the guy runs around, he will get stopped. If my opponent decides to be eager, he’ll stay in the middle and get knocked out 100 percent.
“The fans like to watch a gladiator in action and I am that gladiator, I’m a crowd pleaser.”
The south London-based fighter, whose professional record stands at 4-0, has felt a mixture of excitement and nerves since learning he will be competing in his home country. He joked he could sell out the 62,000-capacity stadium on his own, such has been volume of ticket requests he’s received from family members and friends in the Kingdom and across the region.
But one family member who will not be there is the person who’s been the biggest inspiration to him throughout his career – his mother, who refuses to watch any of his fights due to her finding them too violent.
When Al-Qahtani was competing at the 2010 Asian Games with no financial support for travel or accommodation, she gave him money and all he achieves he puts down to her guidance. She will also be the last person he speaks to before he steps into the ring as part of his traditional pre-fight routine.
“She’s so happy for me. She’s calling everyone up, saying ‘my son is boxing on this day you better watch it.’ She’s over the moon,” he said.
“In my early career I boxed at the Asian Games in 2010 and no one supported me and my mum pulled out $3,000 from her own pocket to help me at the Games, to help me pursue my goal.
“That opened the way for me. My mum was a spark in my life, and she sparked my potential. Where I am now and where I’ll be in my future fights will be because of my mum.
“I’ll call her before the fight and say, ‘I’m about to get started’ and she prays for me and says, ‘God bless you my son, you have worked hard and you will get what you want.’”
Although fighting in Jeddah is a dream come true, for Al-Qahtani it is just the next step on his mission to become a champion of Asia, and then the world. And while he admits it is a huge buzz being part of such a massive event as the Groves-Smith fight, the main feeling is of envy and determination that he can one day headline a bout of this magnitude.
“I have an ideology, every dream comes true, if you pursue it. Either way, if it wasn’t on George Groves’ undercard, I would have my own undercard, I would be the main event.
“The only inspiration I get is jealously — I want to be the main event. I’m waiting for the day when you see Zuhayr Al-Qahtani v (Vasyl) Lomachenko or (Terence) Crawford or whoever. When I sleep, I shadow box. I’m so excited, I can’t wait.”


India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

Updated 18 September 2018
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India and Pakistan ready to renew rivalry in Dubai showdown

  • India brace for Pakistan after surviving stern test against minnows Hong Kong
  • Usman Shinwari: Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high

DUBAI: As delirium sweeps the UAE ahead of the mouth-watering encounter between arch rivals India and Pakistan in the Asia Cup, it seems one man — at least outwardly — is not as excited as the rest of the country and cricketing fans the world over.
India captain Rohit Sharma played with a straight bat when asked about the biggest clash in world cricket, set to take place today at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. On his first Asia Cup media outing the 31-year-old seemed unconcerned by the impending showdown with their fiercest opponents, his focus instead on facing Hong Kong, who Sharma and Co. had a big scare against on Tuesday.
“Right now, we are not focusing on Pakistan as (first) we are playing Hong Kong,” Sharma said on Sunday. “Obviously we have to focus on that particular team but once we have finished that game we will focus on Pakistan and what their strengths and weaknesses are.”
These are clearly the words of a man so media trained that by now he could easily be on the other side of the desk, asking the same questions he and his colleagues sometimes enjoy batting back with crafted clichés that speak of focusing on “one game at a time” or the like.
Sharma was clearly right to not take his eyes off the ball with Hong Kong — they are not here to merely make up the numbers, as their brilliant, battling performance on Tuesday illustrated. But at the same time, Sharma will be all too aware that as India skipper the one match you do not want to lead your side to defeat in is the one against Pakistan, regardless of competition and location.
Clearly India are not leaving Pakistan preparations to the 14 hours or so (sleep included) between the close of the Hong Kong clash and the toss prior to resuming Indo-Pak cricketing rivalry. To suggest they are would be naive at best.
A year on from Pakistan’s show-stealing Champions Trophy final victory over the old enemy in June last year, and a whole five years since the two sides met outside of an ICC or ACC event due to strained political relations, the appetite for the first of potentially three matches at this year’s Asia Cup is huge and one borne out of starved hunger.
Pakistan’s Usman Shinwari, fresh off defeating Hong Kong on Sunday, was more candid than Sharma.
“Any player who performs well in an India-Pakistan match will find his career reaches a new high, and every player dreams of doing well in this contest,” the fast bowler said. “I took three wickets (against Hong Kong), I hope that can be five wickets against India.”
Shinwari’s sentiments were echoed by his captain, Sarfraz Ahmed, who is absolutely clear on the levels of expectation that this fixture demands from fans on both sides of the border.
“The passion is always there,” said Sarfraz. “When you play against India everyone wants us to win as it’s against India.
“The fans say that whatever happens you have to win but as a captain I have to win against every team. It would be the same for India whose fans want them to win. It has happened in the past that any player who performs in the Indo-Pak match becomes a national hero.”
UAE cricket fans cannot wait for the clash. It took just a few hours for the first batch of tickets to be snapped up, the second bought in equally ravenous fashion. It has left a huge number of tickets now being touted across online marketplaces, social media platforms and, ultimately, will likely see the inflated resales being pawned outside the stadium on matchday too.
An expected 25,000 fans will swell the Ring of Fire, set to deal not only with cricket’s most fierce rivalry but also with all the unpredictability that will be thrown their way.
The famed traffic jams around Hessa Street, leading up to the stadium, and local entrances of Dubai Sports City will heave and efforts have been made to ease the burden of vehicles that will cart both sets of fans in and out of the area. Gates will open from 12p.m. local time, a whole three and a half hours before the first ball has been bowled. In an emirate where the last-minute rush is a daily fact of life, this will be not be an easy thing to execute but that, alongside the immense presence of volunteers and security, should prove welcome additions to the day’s running order.
This, though, is India vs Pakistan. Anything could happen.