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.
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.
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.
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.