Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard
Super lightweight boxing prospect Ziyad Almaayouf will face off against Georgi Velichkov of Bulgaria. (Twitter: @gsaksa)
Short Url
Updated 31 March 2023
Follow

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard

Saudi’s Ziyad Almaayouf set for another major bout on Anthony Joshua undercard
  • The 22-year-old boxer will face off against Georgi Velichkov of Bulgaria at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday

One of Saudi Arabia’s top boxing prospects is set to take another major step in his career on Saturday night.

Super lightweight boxing prospect Ziyad Almaayouf will face off against Georgi Velichkov of Bulgaria on the undercard of a heavyweight matchup between Anthony Joshua and Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena in the heart of London’s Docklands.

It will be the third time Almaayouf has fought on the undercard of a Joshua fight, with the two previous bouts taking place in Saudi Arabia.

Almaayouf told Arab News that his first fight outside of the Kingdom brought new pressures.

“The pressure is always there. The more you run from it, the more it runs after you, but, as a fighter, I have to stand there and be there,” he said. “(In this fight) I want to display defense, offense, composure — I am not only representing Saudi Arabia, but I am also representing boxing in Saudi Arabia.”

In clear recognition of his potential, Almaayouf, known by the nickname “Zizo,” will have a world-class trainer in his corner on Saturday night. That is because Almaayouf is trained by Buddy McGirt, a former world champion in two weight classes.

McGirt has trained former heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman and is the current coach of WBO middleweight world champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan.

“I studied McGirt long before I knew him as coach, he is one of the figures that has been inspirational to me in the sport of boxing. The other is His Royal Highness Prince Khaled (Al-Saud), who has always been there for me,” Almaayouf said.

Almaayouf is not sure if his next fight will be in Saudi Arabia, but he is excited to see the growth of the sport in the country of his birth.

“It all starts with exposure, which starts to build fighters — that’s how we build fighters who show heart (in the ring). We need to be patient because that comes through the trials, turbulence, and failure in the ring. You can’t teach it. This is a tough business.”

Almaayouf is quick with a smile, and his affable personality has already won him many fans in Saudi Arabia and beyond. While being taught an entirely different sport, the young Almaayouf first became interested in boxing.

As a young tennis student, a chance encounter with a boxing class changed the trajectory of his life. The 22-year-old began training for the sport at age 11. Only COVID-19 prevented him from representing Saudi Arabia at the Tokyo Olympics and he proudly wears the Saudi emblem on his warmup jacket.

“I saw some people while training for tennis. These boxing students didn’t have a place (to train) and would use the track next to us. I saw them, and I remember thinking, who is Saudi Arabia? Who in the Arab world ever achieved in boxing? I wanted to be involved in that.”

Almaayouf speaks with pride about what the sport has achieved in Saudi Arabia in just a few short years — from heavyweight world title fights to the growth of boxing gyms across the country. Almaayouf wants to be a part of that evolving story.

“I am proud to be here as an ambassador for Saudi Arabia and its athletes, which, guided by Vision 2030, is the fastest growing economy in the world, and sport is part of that vision.”


Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm

Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm

Jeddah race to showcase Red Sea city’s charm
  • Half marathon hosted by Saudi Sports for All Federation, Historic Jeddah Program
  • Runners of all ages, abilities will pass famous landmarks over 4 routes

JEDDAH: Runners in Jeddah will take in the city’s charming sights on March 3 during a half marathon hosted by the Saudi Sports for All Federation and Historic Jeddah Program.
The event will include four routes for male and female runners of all ages and fitness levels.
The Historic Jeddah Program was launched by the Saudi Ministry of Culture to elevate the Red Sea port city as a key center of heritage within the Kingdom.
Bab Jadid, known as Jeddah Old Gate, will serve as the start and finish line for all race routes.
Adults can take part in the half marathon distance of 21 km, while the 10 km race is open to runners aged 12 and above.
Meanwhile, the two other races of 4 km and 1 km are open to runners of all ages and fitness levels, including those with special needs or disabilities.
The event will feature a range of activities within the race village, which is welcoming visitors starting Thursday.
Musical and cultural shows will be held, alongside a range of traditional food offerings for visitors.
The race routes pass by charming streets and famous historical landmarks, including Naseef House, the Al-Matbouli Museum, Al-Jafali Mosque, King Fahd Fountain and the Jeddah Corniche.


First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1

First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1
Updated 29 February 2024
Follow

First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1

First La Liga Futures competition in Saudi Arabia kicks off March 1
  • The U-14 tournament, hosted at Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, will feature 8 La Liga and 4 international teams

MADRID: La Liga FC Futures U-14, a flagship tournament featuring the youth academies of top-tier Spanish clubs, and being held in Saudi Arabia for the first time, kicks off on March 1.

The matches, to be played at Mahd Sports Academy in Riyadh, has been organized in collaboration with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Sports. For the first time, the players making up the competing sides will be in the under-14 category and will play 11-a-side matches.

The tournament will feature 12 clubs, eight EA Sports La Liga teams, plus AS Roma (Italy), SL Benfica (Portugal), Olympique de Marseille (France) and Mahd Academy (Saudi Arabia).

La Liga’s leadership chose Saudi Arabia as the host because of the country’s emergence as a hub for sporting and cultural activities in recent years. The most popular sport in the Kingdom is football, with the highest level of participation among those under the age of 30.

For the past 15 years, La Liga matches have been followed by millions of football fans across the Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia now has six official supporter clubs.

The 12 teams will be divided into three groups: Mahd Academy, FC Barcelona, AS Roma and Cadiz CF (Group A); Atletico de Madrid, Olympique de Marseille, Sevilla FC and Villarreal CF (Group B); and Real Betis, Valencia CF, SL Benfica and CA Osasuna (Group C).

Matches will kick off on March 1 at 9:30 a.m. (Saudi Arabia time) and March 2 at 10 a.m., with the quarterfinals being played on Saturday at 5 p.m. The semifinals will kick off at 10 a.m. on Sunday, with the final at 5 p.m.


Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships

Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships
Updated 28 February 2024
Follow

Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships

Saudi Paralympic weightlifters participate in Dubai’s Fazza Para powerlifting championships
  • Saudi participants who win gold, silver or bronze qualify for Paris 2024 Olympics
  • Mohammed Al-Harbi, president of the Saudi Weightlifting Federation, heads 12-player team

DUBAI: The Saudi Paralympic weightlifting team hopes taking part in the Fazza 13th Para Powerlifting 2024 World Cup will mean qualification for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris.
The championships, which started on Wednesday, are being held in Dubai until Mar. 6. Saudi participants who win gold, silver or bronze medals are automatically eligible for the 2024 Olympics.
Mohammed Al-Harbi, president of the Saudi Weightlifting Federation, heads a 12-strong team that comprises Adnan Bousaid, Talal Al-Balawi, Asil Hausawi, Tariq Balghaith, Saeed Hausawi, Khalid Al-Najim, Sulaiman Al-Shaddoukhi, Abbad Hausawi, Fajr Al-Sumairy, Shareefa Al-Amari, Hassna Al-Najm, and Maha Al-Rashidi.


UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
Updated 26 February 2024
Follow

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table

UAE Pro League review: Al-Wasl continue to set pace at the top of the table
  • Reigning champions Shabab Al-Ahli return to winning ways, while Al-Ain stay in second with win over Baniyas

Al-Wasl’s searing pace at the top of the standings continued, champions Shabab Al-Ahli returned to winning ways and there was more misery for promoted clubs during the ADNOC Pro League’s matchweek 14.

A first full schedule since late December — a lengthy pause for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup was extended by multiple weather postponements — began with bottom-placed Emirates Club and second-bottom Hatta suffering 10th defeats of the season.

Goals for Raniel, on 10 seconds, and Uzbekistan midfielder Azizbek Amonov helped Khor Fakkan prevail 2-0 against the latter, while rampant Wasl breezed past the former via the same scoreline thanks to efforts from nine-goal UAE forward Fabio De Lima and prolific South Korea center-back Jung Seung-hyun. They now lead the table by eight points.

Shabab Al-Ahi, meanwhile, had a trio of Brazil-born scorers to thank when they ended a two-match winless streak in their comfortable 3-0 victory versus 12th-placed Ajman. Also, a 94th-minute tap-in from promising youngster Josna Epifani Loulendo kept the 2023-2024 AFC Champions League quarterfinalists Al-Ain in the hunt with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Baniyas.

There was drama in Abu Dhabi when Mirel Radoi’s league bow for Al-Jazira ended in a 3-2 defeat to Alfred Schreuder’s rapidly improving Al-Nasr, featuring iconic striker Ali Mabkhout’s 96th-minute saved penalty. Also, Caio netted when Sharjah beat Ittihad Kalba 1-0 and Al-Wahda came from behind to down Al-Bataeh 2-1.

Here are Arab News’ top picks and a talking point from the latest action.

Player of the week: Igor Jesus (Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club)

It has been an eventful few weeks for Shabab Al-Ahli’s prodigiously talented, but injury impacted, youngster.

Months of speculation about a return to Brazil or a move to Europe’s major leagues looked to have been ended by this month’s announcement that Igor Jesus had gained Emirati citizenship. It has put the 22-year-old on a fast track to eventually represent the UAE senior side, which is a major boost following January’s disappointing round-of-16 exit at the Asian Cup.

On the pitch, the ex-Coritiba attacker has been rarely seen this term. Yet more knee problems had restricted him to just five league run-outs across 201 minutes, prior to Sunday’s visit of Ajman.

If anyone needed a reminder about Jesus’ residual ability, it came versus the Orange Brigade.

A precision-guided seventh-minute corner from UAE prospect Harib Abdalla was nodded home. Jesus would add an assist to his name in the second half when he played in Guilherme Bala, another naturalized Emirati/Brazilian, who did the rest with an adroit turn and impudent low finish.

The ice pack applied to Jesus’ leg showed caution when he was called off to the bench which included an instant debut for prominent Iran center midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi.

There is such youth and electricity among Shabab Al-Ahli’s attacking options. They must regularly spark to stand any chance of hauling back Wasl.

Goal of the week: Ahmad Nourollahi (Al-Wahda)

Ahmad Nourollahi’s garlanded career has contained many standout moments.

From representing his nation at the 2022 World Cup, to hoarding trophies with Persepolis and adding last season’s ADNOC Pro League crown to his resume at Shabab Al-Ahli.

Acrobatic scissor kicks, however, were not associated with him. That is, before, Sunday’s comeback triumph at Bataeh.

A hopeful cross from right-back Abdullah Al-Karbi was hung up towards the penalty box. There appeared little danger, at this point.

Nourollahi’s lethal combination of athleticism and imagination then sent the ball arrowing into the bottom corner, at the start of the second half. This would propel fifth-placed Wahda to victory, earned through impressive Uzbekistan winter recruit Khojimat Erkinov.

Coach of the week: Alfred Schreuder (Al-Nasr)

UAE football’s sleeping giant is showing signs of stirring.

Nasr have had the history, glamorous Dubai location and outstanding Al-Maktoum Stadium, plus a list of stellar previous players that includes Yohan Cabaye, Alvaro Negredo and Luca Toni. Yet even the hint of glory has eluded them for so long.

This might be changing under Schreuder. The former Ajax and Al-Ain tactician inspired a third win from their last five league run-outs at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium.

It came through a blend of ex-Benfica maestro Adel Taarabt, plus young stars Abdoulaye Toure and Moussa Ndiaye.

Nasr are now comfortably midtable in seventh, after flirting with relegation under Goran Tufegdzic.

It is now up to the club to provide Schreuder with the order required to create sustained success. With six permanent managers since October 2019, this is not guaranteed.

Assessing Al-Ain’s Asian outlook

Al-Ain are flying the flag for their nation in next month’s AFC Champions League quarterfinals.

No less than Cristiano Ronaldo’s Al-Nassr await on March 4 and 11, in a West Asia side of the draw packed by three heavyweight Saudi Arabian challengers.

The task is a stern one if The Boss are to add to their 2002-2003 continental title. Certainly, it will require improvement from their last-gasp victory at Baniyas Stadium.

Those three points, however, came at a cost with leading 11-goal marksman Kodjo Fo-Doh Laba being removed through injury. There is no natural replacement for the Togo star within their ranks.

South Korea anchorman Park Yong-woo has gone deep into this tournament before at Ulsan Hyundai.

Steady progress under legendary ex-Argentine, AC Milan, Inter Milan and Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo has seen six wins accrued from their last seven matches in all competitions. The Boss are also second domestically, with a game in hand.

Crucially, Crespo must learn lessons from the February 2023 7-0 blitzing of his Al-Duhail side by holders Al-Hilal.


Riyadh to host leg of Global Champions Arabians Tour

Riyadh to host leg of Global Champions Arabians Tour
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Riyadh to host leg of Global Champions Arabians Tour

Riyadh to host leg of Global Champions Arabians Tour
  • Along with Riyadh, events will be held in Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Cannes, Valkenswaard in the Netherlands, and in Rome and Paris 

LONDON: Riyadh will host a leg of the Global Champions Arabians Tour later this year, it was announced on Sunday.

The event, whose date has yet to be confirmed, will be hosted by the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation.

Doha has already hosted the first event of the GCAT circuit and, along with Riyadh, events will be held in Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Cannes, Rome, Paris, and Valkenswaard in the Netherlands. 

SAEF President Prince Abdulaziz bin Fahd thanked King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for their support for equestrian sports in Saudi Arabia. 

“The great advancement we are witnessing today in the equestrian sector is a result of the unlimited support from our wise leadership,” Prince Abdulaziz said.

“This has made the Kingdom a global focal point for all equestrian sports, resulting in great successes in high-level organization, event diversity, and a clear vision that positions Saudi Arabia as the foremost global destination.

“I extend my sincere thanks to Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, minister of sports, for his support and continuous follow-up.”

The SAEF hopes that hosting the event will provide competitive opportunities for local talent, attract new audiences and encourage investment in the sport. 

In April, Saudi Arabia will also host the FEI Jumping World Cup, which will be a first for the Middle East. And in 2026, the Kingdom is slated to host the World Challenge Championship.