The International Olympic Committee’s recent clash with the International Boxing Association has raised the possibility of the sport being dropped as early as the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The dreams of thousands of boxers around the world are now very much under threat.
One of those boxers, UAE welterweight Amer Hussain Al-Suwaider, has his heart set on going to the Los Angeles Olympics in five years’ time, despite the IOC’s suspension of the sport from the 2028 program as things stand.
Like so many others, Al-Suwaider has sacrificed his youth to be able to represent his country at the Olympics only for the IOC to shun the sport for a variety of reasons, political and sporting.
But boxing has brought so much more to Al-Suwaider’s life than Olympic dreams.
He began boxing when he was 15 years old, and now at the age of 21, he has represented UAE throughout Asia.
He does not plan on stopping there. As UAE National Champion with 18 amateur fights, Al-Suwaider knows that he has a lot to prove, but just as importantly a lot of young men to inspire.
Born and raised in Al Ain, Al-Suwaider comes from a family of six other siblings. Although his parents fully support his boxing endeavors now, this was not always the case.
“My parents were worried about me when I started. They didn’t think it was safe. But nothing was going to stand in my way. I wanted to show them I was committed to this sport and the positive impact it had on me,” said Al-Suwaider. “They are my biggest supporters now; they can see how boxing has changed the course of my life.”
Three years ago, he joined the UAE Armed Forces and devoted his life to serving his country not only as a career military man but also, he hopes, as an amateur boxer on the international stage.
Residing in Abu Dhabi and working full-time for the army, Al-Suwaider also trains with the UAE Boxing Federation six days a week under the watchful eyes of coaches Mohammed Al-Shebli and Hasan Mukhamedov.
However, Al-Suwaider was not always this disciplined. He had garnered a reputation around Al Ain as a bit of a troublemaker until the Al-Salamat boxing club came calling.
“I was called and asked to come to the gym when I was 15 because I was getting into street fights a lot,” he said. “But the moment I started boxing, my life changed. I was lost before and here I found peace within myself, and I didn’t need to be getting into trouble anymore.
“There were no fancy machines or anything, just an empty room with two boxing bags, and that is how I started.”
Al-Suwaider progressed fast, looking to gain as much experience as possible fighting the same year he started training. His first fight was against a tough opponent, having wanted to test his skills inside the ring regardless of how inexperienced he might have been at that point.
“I was really nervous and apprehensive, but the feeling after was like no other feeling in the world. I wanted to get right back in the ring again as soon as possible,” he said.
The young southpaw started fighting for the UAE Boxing Federation at the age of 16, competing in the 2017 ASBC Asian Confederation Junior Boxing Championships in the Philippines, the 2018 Pan-Arabian Youth Boxing Championships in Cairo and the 2018 ASBC Asian Confederation Youth Championships in Thailand.
“I have fought many times, my amateur card is filling up,” Al-Suwaider. “But I must say there are a few bouts that have stuck in my mind as I could really see my own progression.”
In December, Al-Suwaider fought world bronze medalist Reese Lynch at the IBA Night of Champions in Abu Dhabi.
“It was such a big night for me. I fought a boxer with a lot more experience than me. It was hosted by my country and the event was put on by the IBA with some of the biggest names in the boxing world in attendance. Nights like that you don’t forget,” Al-Suwaider said.
“Another big competition for me was in 2020 when I was in military college in Dubai,” he added. “I hadn’t trained for four months, but I was asked to compete. The opportunity was too big for me to pass. I knew that I hadn’t been training, but I put my head down and did the job. That victory was extremely sweet because it showed me who I am and what I have inside of me.”
Al-Suwaider has the backing of boxing authorities in the UAE.
“Our goal at the Boxing Federation is to help Amer Al-Suwaider achieve every success as an amateur boxer representing the UAE. We have watched him progress at a rapid rate and he accepts any challenge placed in front of him,” said Anas Al-Otaiba, president of the UAE Boxing Federation. “We believe that he has the heart and talent to go far. The Olympics is something he has his sights set on, and we want to make sure that he has all the support from the federation and his country.”
Al-Otaiba also highlighted Al-Suwaider’s role as a role model for other fighters across the Emirates.
“He is an inspiration to the many young Emirati boxers putting in the work, day in and day out, at our facilities. We have young talents that see how dedicated he is to the sport,” the federation chief said. “It is not easy to blaze trails outside of cultural norms, live as an athlete daily when your friends are not, and in Amer’s case, work full time for the UAE army while maintaining a grueling training schedule.
“Amateur boxers must be prepared to fight unknown opponents in their championships, maintain weight levels all year round and compete at a very high level,” Al-Otaiba said.
“We understand that the UAE is still considered a new addition to the international boxing scene and that Amer must be prepared to fight boxers who have extensive boxing pedigree, and more international experience. He is honored to lead the way for the many young boxers behind him and pave that road for them. We look forward to seeing his bright boxing future.”
Al-Suwaider’s life changed the day he picked up his first pair of gloves, from starting scuffles in the streets of Al Ain to joining the army and becoming UAE National Champion.
“Now my life has purpose and structure. I wake up, my day is scheduled, I have goals and dreams for my future, and if I work hard, I know I will achieve them. Boxing saved my life,” said Al-Suwaider.
“To represent my country at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics would be the pinnacle of sporting achievement for me.”