‘Focused’ Zuhayr Al-Qahtani prepared for biggest fight of his career

Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is leaving nothing to chance as he prepares to become the first professional Saudi boxer to fight in the Kingdom. (MTK Global)
Updated 27 September 2018

‘Focused’ Zuhayr Al-Qahtani prepared for biggest fight of his career

  • Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is leaving nothing to chance as he prepares to become the first professional Saudi boxer to fight in the Kingdom
  • Al-Qahtani, 29, takes on powerful Georgian puncher Giorgi Gviniashvili as part of the undercard for Friday’s World Super Series super middleweight final in Jeddah

LONDON: Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is leaving nothing to chance as he prepares to become the first professional Saudi boxer to fight in the Kingdom, so much so he had to turn down tickets to watch Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight title fight with Alexander Povetkin at Wembley.

Al-Qahtani, 29, takes on powerful Georgian puncher Giorgi Gviniashvili as part of the undercard for Friday’s World Super Series super middleweight final in Jeddah between George Groves and Callum Smith.

The Arabian Warrior was due to attend Joshua’s bout with Russia’s Povetkin last Saturday and had prime tickets for the showpiece event but his commitment to training and concerns about the cold causing injury and illness meant he passed up the opportunity.

It shouldn’t come as a great surprise as Friday’s contest at King Abdullah Sports City is a fight Al-Qahtani has been working towards since he first slipped on a pair of boxing gloves as a schoolboy.

“I got tickets but I didn’t want to go. Big boxing events in London, there’s sometimes fighting in the stands, drunk people. I just didn’t want to leave anything to me get injured. It was late, I didn’t want to get tired with training the next day. I just wanted to focus on my training,” Al Qahtani told Arab News before flying to the Middle East earlier this week.

“I didn’t want to jeopardise anything. I went to Joshua v (Wladimir) Klitschko and being sat on the ground at Wembley, it’s so vast and cold and I didn’t want to risk getting sick. The last thing you want to do is get a cold before a fight.

“I just don’t want to leave anything to chance. I want to be 100 per cent fresh for the show. I’ve got the weight of the Middle East on me and I can’t leave any excuses out there. I want to be focused, I want to be ready, I want to go.”

Gviniashvili represents a stiff challenge at super-lightweight over four rounds as the 29-year-old has 12 stoppages from his 29 fights but Al-Qahtani is confident he can get the job done and put on a show for his home fans.  

“He’s a tough kid. He’s got a good record with 12 stoppages so we’ve got a bit of fireball. I’ve seen footage of him, the way he boxes, his style. He’s alright. Every fight I go to is a challenge and it’s for me to adapt and I learn as I’m fighting,” Al-Qahtani added.

“Once I bring my A-game, there’ll be no trouble at all. I believe I belong with the best. But every guy I get in the ring with is a serious threat. He’s good but I believe in myself, I believe in my skills and I believe in my hard work, so there’s nothing to stop me.”

Al-Qahtani has been a bundle of nervous energy as the time has ticked down towards fight night. Having worked intensely at his craft under the guise of former IBO light middleweight champion Richard ‘The Secret’ Williams, who will be in his corner in Jeddah.

On Friday he will rise, attend prayer, “to ask God for guidance and success” before returning to his hotel to relax. That involved pouring over footage of classic fighters like Marvin Hagler and Manny Pacquiao to help him get in the zone.

“I’m a very boring man – I don’t really watch TV or films, I just watch boxing,” he laughs. “Even my Nan tells me that, she only knows boxing because of me!”

Then he’ll tuck into his traditional pre-fight meal of Spaghetti Bolognese before spending time with his younger brother Naseem and his cousins, who have travelled from all around Saudi and Dubai. Although, Al-Qahtani admits at this stage he’s in a state of isolation.

“I’m in the zone, I black out everyone. For me, it doesn’t matter who’s there, it’s a journey I have to take on my own. Boxing is a serious business,” he explains.

Then he and his entourage will make their way to the King Abdullah Sports City around three hours before fight time, giving him a chance to explore the ring, “so it’s nothing new to me when I step in there for the fight”. Then it’s game face on in the dressing room, hydrating and going through his game plan before calling up his Mum for her to wish him good luck.

It’s a meticulous routine he has honed over 16 years of being in the sport to finally realise his dream of fighting in Saudi, the first major step on the road to competing Asian and world titles.

Al-Qahtani will enter the ring in his trademark black and gold shorts soundtracked by a traditional Saudi war song which, he says, should send the crowd “crazy.” Then it’s down to business. “I’m going to war,” he admits. “I respect my opponent but he better be ready. It’s showtime.”


Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

Updated 18 November 2019

Saudi bowlers off to QubicaAMF World Cup

  • First woman from the Kingdom to compete in the championship in Indonesia

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia is sending its first woman to compete in the 55th QubicaAMF Bowling World Cup that begins in Indonesia.

Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.

Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating in the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating in the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The men’s competition started Sunday at 9 p.m.

The women’s competition will begin at 3 p.m. today, where Mashael will take part in six rounds. The competition will run until Nov. 24.

HIGHLIGHT

  • Mashael Alabdulwahid will join her male teammate Abdulrahman Al-Khilaiwi, under the supervision of coach, Mario Joseph, to take part in the contest in Palembang.
  • Both players underwent training at a camp in Riyadh to prepare for the event. The training program included participating at the Asian Championship in Kuwait for Abdulrahman, and participating at the GCC 6th women’s bowling tournament for Mashael.

The competition continues on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday and after completing 24 rounds, the top 24 players will be selected to compete for the top eight positions by playing eight runs on Friday. On Saturday, the best four female players and four male players will be chosen to compete in the finals.

Abdulrahman said that he is looking forward to the world cup. “This year there is a new advantage and that is having teammate Mashael joining me for the first time. I’m proud of her! It’s a big thing for Saudi women and for us in the team because this world exposure will help them to learn and give them an incentive to develop their skills,” he said.

The 20-year-old player has been bowling for the past 10 years. Despite his young age, thanks to his perseverance and sense of discipline he managed to win many victories, but the most distinguished were those in 2018. He delivered the bronze medal at the World Cup in Detroit, and two bronzes at the Asian Bowling Championship in the Philippines in the same year, and a gold medal for the trio event at the Arab Bowling Championship in Oman.

Mashael, 32, was only able to play officially last year in February 2018 when the Saudi Bowling Federation (SBF) received the decree to allow women to play in sports. However, she has been playing for fun since early childhood when she used to travel to Egypt with her family and where she managed to learn from the professionals and get hooked on the game. Mashael was chosen to take part in the Egypt Arab Championship and World Bowling Women’s Championship in Las Vegas in August 2018.

Mashael said: “Playing for fun is definitely enjoyable but when you wear your country’s flag that’s a huge responsibility put on your shoulder. You become an ambassador and a role model and when I’m put in that situation, I definitely want to give my all to be fit for that honor, and give the best image worthy of our beloved country.”

The bowlers expressed their gratitude to the Saudi Bowling Federation and its president Bader bin Abdullah Al-Alsheikh for his support and for creating opportunities for them so that they can progress, enrich their experiences and win awards and achievements.