‘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.”


Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

Updated 16 November 2018
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Riyad Mahrez comes of age at Manchester City in search for glory

  • Riyad Mahrez signed for City in a $76.6 million move
  • All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a record-breaking side

MANCHESTER: It took eight games for Riyad Mahrez to show why Manchester City paid a club record £60 million ($76.6 million) for his services.
All eyes were on how Pep Guardiola’s only summer signing would add an extra edge to a side that broke records on the way to claiming the Premier League title last season.
The Algerian winger came off the bench just past the hour mark against Cardiff two months ago and slid home his first City goal from close range before curling in a second with a fine left-foot finish.
The brace provided lift-off for the 27-year-old and his confident displays since have quickly dispelled any doubts that he would struggle to adapt to a system under Guardiola that demands commitment as well as class.
For Mahrez, he has been working to fulfil this footballing dream ever since he was a youngster practicing his skills on the streets of Paris suburb Sarcelles, encouraged by his late father Ahmed.
“I’m proud,” he says of an inspiring journey that began professionally in the French Second Division with Quimper in 2009, then at Le Havre a year later, before joining Leicester City for just £400,000 in 2014.
“It’s not easy to arrive here (at City), to come to a club like this. You need to work very hard to get here and when you do it’s not the final thing.
“You still need to work even more, to perform, to be humble, and to try to go higher. Of course, I want to do even better.
“I didn’t feel any pressure when I came because of the price, I don’t think about this stuff.
“I’m feeling good now at City, playing good at the moment and we are winning games. But it’s not finished yet and we need to keep going. The season is very long and we all have to keep going like this.”
While Mahrez has already won the league title with Leicester during a fairytale 2015-16 season that also saw him crowned the PFA Player of the Year, he remains ambitious and convinced he can still improve.
A yardstick has perhaps been set by Liverpool’s Egyptian frontman Mohamed Salah, who took his game to another level with 44 goals last season, winning the PFA and Football Writers’ Player of the Year awards and named third in the 2018 Best FIFA Men’s Player.
“Salah had a very good season. And we have a good team, we can score a lot of goals and I hope to do more, like he has done,” Mahrez told Arab News exclusively.
“But the most important thing is that we keep on winning as a team, and I’m going to try to help the team to do this, to score goals, make assists.”
The performances of Mahrez, who has claimed four more goals since the Cardiff match, and eight-goal Salah on Merseyside could well be integral to how their clubs eventually fare in this campaign.
Both teams are unbeaten in the league after 12 games with City two points clear of Liverpool, a lead confirmed by the impressive 3-1 win over neighbors United in the recent Manchester derby.
But Mahrez knows the mesmerising manner in which they have roared to the top will mean nothing if they are not there next May.
“The derby was special, a good atmosphere, a good win, I’m very happy,” he said after his first experience of the rivalry.
“But it’s not that because we beat United we are going to win the league. You can’t think like that, there’s still a long way to go and we have to keep focus.
“We have a good team, we are playing well. We just need to keep working hard for each other and we know we are going to be there at the end of the season. That’s the target.
“I won the title with Leicester, but I came here to win more trophies.
“I’m not going to say I’m going to win this or that, but of course this is a club that wants to win trophies. Win the Premier League, I don’t know. Win the Champions League, I don’t know.
“But we are going to make everything we can to try to do that. That’s the challenge for us.”