UAE international boxing event pulls no punches with knockout fight card

UAE international boxing event pulls no punches with knockout fight card
The Atlantis Hotel on Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 August 2021

UAE international boxing event pulls no punches with knockout fight card

UAE international boxing event pulls no punches with knockout fight card
  • Friday fight night at Atlantis hotel on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah will feature 6 bouts, 2 for vacant titles

DUBAI: Boxing nights are not a common occurrence in the UAE, but some of the world’s best fighters could soon become regular visitors to the country if the organizers behind this weekend’s Legacy Boxing Series - International Boxing Fight Night have their way.

On Friday, Legacy Sports Management is bringing six professional fights, two of which are title bouts, to the Atlantis hotel on Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

Former world WBA light middleweight champion Austin Trout, who will take on Alejandro Davila in the super welterweight division in the night’s main event, told Arab News that he was glad the wait for his fight was finally over.

Austin Trout is topping the bill at International Boxing Night. (File/Legacy Sports Management)

He said: “I’ve had to mentally psych myself into not worrying about the possibility of is it going to happen, is it not going to happen, will (the coronavirus disease) COVID-19 stop, are the flights going to come through?

“All those things that were buzzing around the fight, I’ve just been training, my coaches expect me in the gym regardless, if the fight was happening or not. We’ve been working hard.”

Trout’s last fight was in February’s unanimous decision win over Juan Armando Garcia in Mexico, and the 35-year-old southpaw pointed out that he was in great condition to take on another strong Mexican opponent in Davila.

“It’s been good here, it’s been hot, but I wasn’t expecting it to also be so humid, which is great for losing weight. My weight is good. It’s something that you have to get used to, so I’m glad that Legacy brought us out with enough time to acclimatize,” the Texas fighter added.

It will be Trout’s first time in Dubai, and he has been training at the Real Boxing Only gym in Al-Quoz alongside several other boxers who will be taking to the ring in the Atlantis at the weekend.

He said: “Facilities here are great, and we have everything we need. It’s a nice professional atmosphere. Everybody that’s in here works, so it’s not like some gyms where you come in and you see some people slacking around, nothing like that. I love the environment and the atmosphere here.

“I’m very excited to be back in the ring, even more excited to be fighting here in Dubai,” added Trout, who has a professional career record of 33 wins, five losses, and one draw.

“A big part of my career we were fighting abroad, and honestly it was the most fun part of my career. I really enjoyed it. I was in love with boxing. So, I’m happy to do more travelling, more fighting.”

He also hoped that boxing would follow mixed martial arts’ example of staging more fights in the UAE and the Middle East.

“From my understanding and what I’ve always gathered, is that Middle East loves combat sports. There really is no reason why there shouldn’t be a lot of boxing. UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) kind of paved the way with Fight Island (on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi) and they’ve had some good success with that, so I’m hoping boxing follows suit and brings a lot of fights over here. It’s always appreciated,” Trout said.

While his focus remained on Friday’s bout, Trout was clear about his future ambitions.

“We don’t have any set plans, we always have to get past what’s ahead of us, but I’m looking to get to the title. I’m looking to be a two-time world champion, the moves we make will be toward that goal,” he added.

The organizers also hope many similar events will follow.

Karim Akkar, chief executive officer of Legacy Sports Management, said: “Dubai stands for quality, and we are keen to bring the best fight cards to Dubai and spotlight the city as the new place to be for boxing.

“Dubai is the place where we want to build world champions in the next year. Everyone loves the city and boxers around the globe were overwhelmed with the opportunity to fight here.”

One of the highlights on the fight card will be the clash between Ismaikel “Mike” Perez and Tony Salam for the vacant WBA Intercontinental cruiserweight title.

Ireland-based 'Mike' Perez during a training session in Dubai ahead of Friday's fight night. (File/Legacy Sports Management)

Perez said: “Being in Dubai will make it special, most people dream of coming here, and fighting here. It’s a blessing to be here, it’s a blessing to have Legacy behind me and to give me this opportunity. It’s a blessing to be fighting for a title. It took me three to four years to get here, just to come back like this, I have no words to explain it.”

The Ireland-based Cuban noted that finding the right balance of training since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic had not been easy.

“I don’t think I had any problems in a fitness way, I’ve been training for three years straight. Even with gyms on lockdown, I would go running every day, do what I could. I didn’t do too much boxing at the time. Where I live, it’s hard to find a gym that can let you train, especially me as an immigrant. But in the last six months, I’ve done everything, sparring, everything,” he added.

Perez fought for the WBC cruiserweight title in 2017, but the last few years have not been easy for the 35-year-old.

He said: “It took me three years before I found Legacy in the end. My wife and I were talking about it, she was like I know you love it but maybe it’s time to go ahead and do something else. And just when I was about to decide to move on and stop boxing for good, I found Legacy, and the opportunity to come. I just can’t wait. I will do my very best, I want this.

“I’m ready to go. Even after Friday, if they tell me to go next Friday, I’m ready to go. All I want is just to fight.”

Also on the bill is a highly anticipated bout for the vacant WBA Intercontinental super middleweight title between the talented American Anthony Sims Jr. and Hernan David Perez from Argentina. It will be a second chance to secure the belt that the 26-year-old from Indiana aims not to waste.

Anthony Sims Jr. has his sights on winning a a world title in Dubai. (File/Legacy Sports Management)

He said: “I lost my last fight, which was for the world title, so it’s like I’m getting a chance to do it all over and do it the right way. It’s the chance of a lifetime. Lightning never strikes twice, but to me it struck twice in one year, and I’m just blessed.”

Sims was also looking forward to fighting in front of a new crowd in a new environment. “I always want to fight in front of beautiful people, of all ethnicities and races across world, and I’m getting to do it right here in Dubai.”

He pointed out that the camp in Dubai had been ideal ahead of Friday’s fight.

“The gym is amazing. Both gyms supply your different needs. One gym has all the bags you need, and the other has more diverse bags, both have amazing rings, and a great atmosphere. You don’t need for anything, it’s perfect,” he added.

And beyond Dubai, his focus was clear. “After this fight, we’re going for somebody in the top 10.”

Rounding up the card will be the super featherweight bout between Bekman Soylybayev and Ramiro Cesena; Fernando Daniel Martinez versus Gonzalo Garcia Duran in the super flyweight category; and Ramona Graeff against Karina Kopinska in the female lightweight division.

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row
Updated 8 sec ago

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row

Glory for Al-Hilal as win over Al-Faisaly secures third Saudi Pro League title in row
  • The 2-1 win meant Ramon Diaz’s team could not be caught by Al-Ittihad, who ended the season disappointing fashion with 0-0 draw again Al-Batin

RIYADH: Al-Hilal have been crowned champions of Saudi Arabia for a record-extending 18th time  after defeating Al-Faisaly 2-1 in Riyadh on Monday night to finish two points at the top of the table above rivals Al-Ittihad who were held to a 0-0 draw by Al-Batin. 

Two goals from the league’s leading scorer Odion Ighalo gave coach Ramon Diaz’s team an 11th win from the last 12 games and top spot for the third successive season, a campaign which is the longest ever after starting in mid-August 2021. It is a fantastic achievement for the Asian champions as they were 16 points behind Al-Ittihad in February when coach Ramon Diaz took over. 

Ighalo’s 22nd goal of the season after just seven minutes took the early nerves out of the occasion at the King Fahd International Stadium. The former Manchester United striker turned and fired home from close range after a smart pull-back from Brazil’s Michael. The second strike, which came four minutes after the hour, was similar. Michael beat two defenders on the right and squared the ball to Ighalo who swept home.

The game, and the title race, seemed to be all over but with 20 minutes remaining, the visitors silenced the celebrating home crowd with substitute Clayson arriving late to send a powerful header past Abdullah Al-Mayouf after a perfect Khalid Al-Kabi cross from  the right side. Suddenly there was tension among the home fans as Al-Faisaly, needing a result to guarantee top tier football next season, pushed forward in search of a potentially decisive point. 

The closest the men from Dammam came was deep into injury time when a shot from Tavares was cleared off the line, by a hand, claimed the visitors. This has been a season with plenty of last-minute drama and hearts were in mouths as Greek referee Anastasios Sidiropoulos went to the pitchside monitor. He waved away the desperate appeals and though the players did not know it, Al-Faisaly’s top flight status was already safe.  After 10 minutes of added time, it was all over. It was a frantic end to a frantic season and the celebrations reflected the champion’s relief and the delight at one of their more unlikely title triumphs.

Al-Hilal’s victory meant that, as they had the better head-to-head record against their challengers, that there was nothing Al-Ittihad could do down in Jeddah. The goalless draw with Al-Batin was, however, a disappointing end to a campaign that had promised so much.

The Tigers dropped 13 points in the final eight games, a run that cost them what would have been a first title since 2009. Al-Ittihad huffed and puffed against Al-Batin, who now drop to the second tier but were unable to break the deadlock in the first half. 

It was a terrible night all round for Jeddah as 2016 champions Al-Ahli were relegated to the second tier for the first time ever. A 0-0 draw against fourth place Al-Shabab condemned the 2012 Asian Champions League finalists to the drop.

That meant that Al-Ahli, Al-Batin and Al-Hazm are all relegated but it was a tense 90 minutes at the bottom half of the table with seven teams in with a chance of the drop going into the final game. 

Al-Taawoun ensured their survival with a 1-1 draw at Damac, who finish in fifth, while Al-Tai confirmed safety with a 3-0 win over Al-Hazm, a third victory in four games. Al-Raed defeated Abha 1-0, a result that preserves the top flight status of both teams, while Ettifaq are also safe thanks to a 1-0 win at Al-Feiha.

Elsewhere, Al-Nassr ended their season in third after a 2-1 win over Al-Fateh but it was elsewhere in Riyadh where the strains of "We Are The Champions" could be heard.

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
Updated 27 June 2022

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round

World number two Jabeur into Wimbledon second round
  • She will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32

LONDON: World number two Ons Jabeur eased into the Wimbledon second round on Monday with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Swedish qualifier Mirjam Bjorklund.
Jabeur, a quarter-finalist in 2021 and fresh from the grass-court title in Berlin, will face either Rebecca Marino of Canada or Poland’s Katarzyna Kawa for a place in the last 32.

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
Saudi Arabia recently won the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup in Uzbekistan. (SAFF)
Updated 27 June 2022

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress

2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup, women’s team triumphs highlight Saudi football progress
  • The Young Falcons won the Kingdom’s debut U-23 Asian Cup title
  • Saudi women’s team took second pace in the WAFF Futsal Championship

RIYADH: The triumph of the Young Falcons at the 2022 AFC U-23 Asian Cup and the recent successes of the women’s national team has marked yet more milestones for Saudi Arabian football this year, after the senior team qualified for the World Cup in Qatar and the Kingdom’s clubs rack up great results in continental competitions.

Saudi Arabian Football Federation (SAFF) President Yasser Al-Misehal said: “The success of the Saudi national teams demonstrates that our strategy is yielding positive results. Bringing back to the Kingdom the AFC U-23 Asian Cup for the first time ever with our very own Saudi national coach, Saad Al-Shehri, is a source of great pride and satisfaction.

“The players who achieved this great feat will be part of the main drivers of the success of our National Team going forward.”

He added: “This gives us greater confidence and trust in our younger generation, beside the achievements we had this year for both men’s and women’s football. We are working on developing a pathway tailored for every up-and-coming Saudi footballer on the grassroots level.

“We are working on extending a very large pool of Saudi talent with the support needed for the upcoming generations of Saudi football to match the highest professional levels of the game, be it in the technical and tactical aspects of the game, as well as the dietary, psychological, physical and athletic aspects.”

The U-23 victory comes soon after the senior Green Falcons team qualified for their sixth World Cup participation ahead of this year’s tournament in Qatar. Herve Renard’s team topped their qualification group, which featured continental giants such as Japan and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League continues to grow in quality and importance at the Asian level, with Al-Hilal currently the holders of the AFC Champions League title. This year, three Saudi teams are set to feature in the competition’s round of 16, with Al-Hilal, Al-Shabab and Al-Faisaly having topped their respective groups in the first round.

Earlier this month, the Saudi Futsal National Team also grabbed the silver medal in the West Asian Football Federation’s Futsal Championship. The Green Falcons demonstrated incredible quality throughout the tournament, before narrowly losing 5-3 to hosts Kuwait in the final. The team continued their fine run of form on the road reaching the quarterfinals in the Futsal Arab Cup taking place in Dammam following a thrilling 3-2 encounter against Iraq that ended their campaign.

Saudi women have also enjoyed their fair share of success in football this year. In February, the newly launched Saudi Women’s National Team played its first ever official games against the Seychelles and the Maldives, winning both games with the same 2-0 result. 

The Kingdom concluded their successful hosting of the 2022 West Asian Football Federation’s Women’s Futsal Championship in Jeddah, where the Saudi Women’s Futsal National Team made its debut in the competition and claimed a silver medal following a 4-2 defeat in the final against Iraq.

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
Updated 27 June 2022

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut

WWE RAW to mark 20th anniversary of John Cena’s debut
  • June 2022 had been dedicated to the legendary wrestler’s arrival on SmackDown two decades ago

RIYADH: Twenty years on from John Cena’s arrival on SmackDown, the legendary wrestler makes an appearance on RAW tonight, the highlight of the WWE’s month-long celebration of his career.

Cena has since those early days become a household name in the WWE, and is widely regarded as one of the greatest professional wrestlers of all time. The WWE had dedicated the month of June 2022 to the performer.

While his return opponent is yet to be announced, the WWE Universe is in for an action-packed edition of the red brand as Cena steps into the ring for a landmark match tonight.

A joint-record 16-time world champion, Cena has won the WWE Championship 13 times which is also a record. He is also a five-time US Champion, a four-time world tag team champion, a two-time Royal Rumble match winner, a one-time Money in the Bank victor, and has headlined many major WWE events, including WrestleMania five times.

His first US title win was in New York’s Madison Square Garden, opening the 20th edition of WrestleMania in 2004, and delivering two “Attitude Adjustments” to the “Big Show” Paul White. That moment solidified his status as a rising attraction for the promotion.

A year later at WrestleMania 21 Cena would challenge John Bradshaw Layfield (JBL) for the main event which marked the first world championship win for “The Champ.” His “I Quit” match against the former champion at Judgement Day in 2005 is still considered a classic.

The main event of WrestleMania 22 in 2006 saw John Cena beat “The Game” Triple H clean in the middle of the ring to retain his title. One year later WrestleMania 23 featured the now dominant WWE champion rise against D-Generation X counterpart and one of the greatest wrestlers of all time — “Mr. WrestleMania” Shawn Michaels.

The Royal Rumble is one of the biggest events on the WWE calendar, and Cena has been involved in many epic showdowns in that event, prevailing in 2008 and 2013 as the winner.

Many fans consider Edge to be Cena’s fiercest rival and their feud certainly elevated both men to new heights. Edge memorably cashed in his Money in the Bank briefcase on a wounded Cena at New Year’s Revolution 2006 for his first WWE Championship win. Edge and Cena’s rivalry saw the two battle over the WWE Championship for the majority of 2006, and over the World Heavyweight Title in 2009. Their matches captivated WWE audiences, and both superstars have an outstanding 27 World Titles between them.

Cena has also crossed paths with Randy Orton numerous times in his career. During the 2000s the two were believed to be the top stars in the WWE. Between their first match in November 2005 and their last match in February of 2017, Cena and Orton faced each other 22 times in televised matches. The record between the two men is 13-7 in favor of Cena.

Cena faced the Rock for the first time at WrestleMania 28 in what was billed as a “Once In A Lifetime” match. The Rock defeated Cena in a 30-minute classic, but a year later Cena shocked the world at WrestleMania 29 by defeating the Rock for the WWE Championship.

Cena is also a winner of the Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award for 2018.

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions. (File/AFP)
Updated 27 June 2022

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly

Al-Hilal on brink of another league title as they host Al-Faisaly
  • The reigning Saudi and Asian champions need to match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin to secure a record 18th championship

DUBAI: Al-Hilal take on Al-Faisaly on Monday night at King Fahd International Stadium knowing that if they match Al-Ittihad’s result against Al-Batin, they will be crowned Saudi Pro League champions for a record 18th time.

It will also be the third consecutive title for the reigning Saudi and Asian champions.

The Riyadh giants trailed Al-Ittihad by 16 points earlier in the campaign but a remarkable run of form in the second half of the season now sees them lead the SPL table on goal difference. A win tonight will guarantee the title, regardless of what the team from Jeddah, who have suffered a late loss of form and nerve, does.

Although Al-Hilal are strong favorites to defeat Al-Faisaly and claim the league title, Argentine coach Ramon Diaz will warn against any complacency, particularly as he will be missing the services of defenders Ali Al-Bulaihi and Jang Hyun-soo.

History suggests, however, that Al-Hilal’s fans will be celebrating tonight, having seen their team defeat Al-Faisaly 17 times in their 23 meetings, with the other six ending in draws.

Meanwhile, Al-Faisaly, in 11th place, go into the match still unsure of whether they will be playing top tier football next season, an indication of just how many clubs are still fighting relegation as the season comes to a close.

Having played 12 consecutive seasons in the Saudi Pro League, Al-Faisaly are flirting with the drop going into the last day, as they did in the 2016-17 season.