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

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.”

Nuno banishes memories of recent disappointments as he leads Al-Ittihad to Roshn Saudi League glory

Al-Ittihad players and coach Nuno Santo celebrate the club's first league title in 14 years. (Twitter/@ittihad_en)
Al-Ittihad players and coach Nuno Santo celebrate the club's first league title in 14 years. (Twitter/@ittihad_en)
Updated 28 May 2023

Nuno banishes memories of recent disappointments as he leads Al-Ittihad to Roshn Saudi League glory

Al-Ittihad players and coach Nuno Santo celebrate the club's first league title in 14 years. (Twitter/@ittihad_en)
  • Jeddah club claim first championship in 14 years after missing out to Al-Hilal last season

JEDDAH: In November 2021, Nuno Espirito Santo lost his job as head coach of Tottenham Hotspur following defeat to Manchester United.

Eighteen months later, with the London club struggling and without a coach, he lifted the Roshn Saudi League trophy after Al-Ittihad won 3-0 at Al-Fayha on Saturday.

It has been a long and hard season for the Jeddah giants who have waited 14 years to get their hands on this particular prize, but hiring the Portuguese boss last summer was a turning point in that journey.

Rivals such as Al-Nassr, who will have to settle for second after a 1-1 draw with Ettifaq, have signed world-class stars such as Cristiano Ronaldo, but having a coach who has worked at the top levels of the global game proved to be exactly what Al-Ittihad needed.

“The players have worked very hard,” said Santo after the final whistle as the celebrations started.

“Al-Ittihad has suffered from many problems since last season, and we faced important absences, and the effort had to be collective in order to be able to win the title.”

The biggest problem was getting over last season itself. Fans will never forget how, in February, Al-Ittihad were 16 points clear of Al-Hilal, but still managed to slip up and had to watch in horror disbelief as their bitter rivals from Riyadh took the title.

After missing out more than once since 2009, there was a feeling that while Hilal were a winning machine, Ittihad had forgotten what was necessary to stay the course over a league season.

Enter the former Porto, Valencia and Wolverhampton Wanderers boss.

“I am happy when I see the team organized and balanced on the pitch,” the 49-year-old said. “For me, work, organization and commitment are the basic pillars of any team and are not up for negotiation.”

That is obvious to anyone who has watched the Tigers, who have lived up to the spirit of their name this season.

In 29 games, they have conceded just 13 goals. The defense has been rock solid. Goalkeeper Marcelo Grohe has been one of the unsung heroes and the Brazilian has already managed a record 18 clean sheets this season.

It helps that in front of him is one of the best central defenders in Asia, as well as his home continent of Africa. Ahmed Hegazi has been a revelation since arriving from West Bromwich Albion in October 2020. The Egyptian is a leader and inspiration to his team-mates and, like his defensive partner Ahmed Sharahili, who scored an early opener on Saturday to calm any nerves, chips in with vital goals. 

Hegazi’s fellow Egyptian Tarek Hamed is a more recent addition, and the defensive midfielder has added bite, weight and experience to the middle since arriving in pre-season. Not only does he protect the backline, but the 34-year-old is always available to receive the ball, relieve pressure and keep possession.

It is not just about a rock-solid defense, either. Al-Ittihad still score plenty, with attackers knowing that a goal or two will almost certainly be enough to win. The Brazilians are always a threat. Bruno Henrique has been as steady as always, with Igor Coronado one of the more creative presences in the entire league and along with his six goals, having provided two assists in the vital 3-0 win at the weekend to take his season total to 13. 

Romarinho has had another excellent season. He may not get the plaudits he deserves, but is almost sure to score on the rare occasions that Abderrazak Hamdallah fails. The Moroccan is an exceptional goalscorer and, with 20 so far this season, is on course for a third golden boot in Saudi Arabia which would be a major achievement.

It is, of course, not just about the foreign players. Haroune Camara has been a willing assistant in attack, Ahmed Bamsaud has improved at left-back under Santo, and on the right side of defense, Madallah Al-Olayan has also been a steady presence.

Santo has brought all this together with his watchwords of organization, hard work and balance. There is also mentality. When Al-Shabab were impressing early in the season, Ittihad just plugged away and did the same when Al-Nassr were top. At the halfway point, they were third, but like the best long-distance runner were dangerously on the shoulder of the leaders and ready to make their move.

And this is what happened. As Al-Shabab dropped off, and Al-Nassr blew a little hot and cold up in Riyadh, down in Jeddah Al-Ittihad just kept going. They lost only two games all season, and a big difference between this campaign and last was how they bounced back from unfortunate results. An early season loss against Al-Hilal and then a draw with Al-Shahab were setbacks that could have raised concerns, but the Jeddah club then picked up 34 points from the next 36 games — a run that the other teams were unable to live with. 

The second loss was 2-1 to Al-Taawoun with five games to go. Last season’s Ittihad may well have crumbled, but any hope rivals may have had that this version was faltering were dashed with the subsequent 4-0 win at home to Abha. Even when the performances were not great, they found a way to win and that, as Al-Hilal fans know, is what champions do. 

And, after 14 years, Al-Ittihad fans know it, too. They have waited a long time for this success, as has Nuno. They all deserve it.

WWE Night of Champions sees history made and new heroes crowned in Saudi Arabia

WWE Night of Champions sees history made and new heroes crowned in Saudi Arabia
Updated 28 May 2023

WWE Night of Champions sees history made and new heroes crowned in Saudi Arabia

WWE Night of Champions sees history made and new heroes crowned in Saudi Arabia
  • Seth Rollins crowned new WWE World Heavyweight Champion on historic night in Jeddah
  • Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens retain Tag Team titles, defeating Roman Reigns on landmark 1,000-day anniversary

JEDDAH: WWE made a historic return to Saudi Arabia on Saturday evening, with Night of Champions providing an emphatic display for the energetic, sellout crowd and new WWE heroes crowned inside the Jeddah Superdome.

In the first match of the evening’s Triple Main Event, Seth Rollins was crowned the new World Heavyweight Champion. Despite a debilitating knee injury sustained during the match, Rollins fought through the pain to fend off the WWE veteran AJ Styles and secure the championship inside the Jeddah Superdome.

Triple H hands World Heavyweight Championship to Seth Rollins at Night of Champions. (Supplied)

Early in the evening, WWE Hall of Famer Trish Stratus rolled back the years to take down Becky Lynch in a brutal contest, with the match marred by a controversial finish. Stratus dominated her opponent throughout, but the victory for Stratus would come thanks to a shocking appearance from Zoey Stark. A surprise attack from Stark on Lynch was missed by the referee before Stratus finished the match in astonishing style.

Gunther retains the Intercontinental Champion after a powerful title defense against Mustafa Ali in front of an energetic crowd in Jeddah. Ali’s acrobatic display earned plaudits and wowed the sold-out crowd, but it would not be enough to claim the title from Gunther, with the German Giant’s imposing figure proving too much for his contender.

Japan’s Asuka defeated Bianca Belair to steal the WWE Raw Women’s Championship with her signature blue mist providing the vital upper hand in the title contest. The match was filled with fiery moments following recent run-ins between Belair and Asuka before the Japanese superstar would take victory and the championship.

Rhea Ripley made quick work of her championship title defense against Natalya, with the SmackDown Women’s Champion putting on a devastating performance to defeat her opponent in the evening’s shortest match.

Ripley was joined at ringside by her teammate from The Judgement Day, Dominik Mysterio, who played a vital role in distracting Natalya, allowing the retaining SmackDown Women’s Champion to swoop in and end the contest in swift style.

In a rematch of two of WWE’s most dividing stars, Brock Lesnar powered his way to victory over the injured Cody Rhodes, with WWE officials stepping in to stop the contest. Entering the ring with a fractured left arm, Cody Rhodes produced a defiant display, but his gutsy strategy would be ineffective against the sheer force of Lesnar, with the referee declaring the latter victorious after Rhodes was incapacitated.

The evening’s final match brought a historic moment as Sami Zayn and Kevin Owens retained their Undisputed WWE Tag Team Championships, defeating the Undisputed WWE Universal Champion Roman Reigns and Solo Sikoa in dramatic fashion.

The Jeddah crowd were in full voice for the Tag Team Champions, bolstered by Sami Zayn’s introduction speech in Arabic before the match kicked off. Despite the pure power of Reigns and Sikoa, a moment of controversy saw Jey and Jimmy Uso, cousins of Reigns, enter the fold in an attempt to redeem their family’s pride and retake the championship belts.

Their efforts were mistimed to the dismay of Reigns, with the aftermath seeing the cousins destroy the family legacy of The Bloodline before Zayn and Owens clinched the victory to retain their championships.

Fans in the Middle East can relive all the action from this year’s WWE Night of Champions, with exclusive highlights available now on Shahid.

Al-Ittihad champions as Al-Nassr and Ronaldo stumble

Al-Ittihad champions as Al-Nassr and Ronaldo stumble
Updated 28 May 2023

Al-Ittihad champions as Al-Nassr and Ronaldo stumble

Al-Ittihad champions as Al-Nassr and Ronaldo stumble

Al-Ittihad are Saudi Arabian champions for the first time since 2009 after defeating Al-Fayha 3- 0 on Saturday in the penultimate round of fixtures in the Roshn Saudi League. Second-placed Al-Nassr came back to draw 1-1 at Ettifaq but it was not enough as Ittihad’s win ended an exciting title race. It is a well-deserved triumph for coach Nuno Santo and his players who saw off the challenge of Cristiano Ronaldo and Al-Nassr to lift a hard-fought and deserved prize.

At kick-off, Al-Ittihad knew that a win would be enough for title number nine but they also knew that they had been in good positions before and failed to finish the job such as last season when a 16-point advantage over Al-Hilal did not prove to be enough. Any nerves were, however,  reduced after three minutes as Ahmed Sharahili sent the Jeddah giants on their way. Igor Coronado floated over a deep free-kick and Sharahili reacted to stab the ball home from close range and the celebrations in Jeddah started to bubble under the surface.

(Twitter: @ittihad)

That early strike was a blow for Al-Nassr who hit the post in the first half thanks to a shot from Luiz Gustavo from close range.but three minutes before the break, the Yellows fell behind.Saeed Al-Mowalad crossed from the right and Youssouf Niakate swept home from close range to finish a perfect move. It was harsh on Al-Nassr who had dominated possession and had the better of the chances but they could feel that their chances of league title number ten were slipping away.

Ronaldo and his team continued to work hard but received another body blow just before the break as Al-Ittihad extended their lead thanks to another set piece. Coronado floated over a free-kick once again and this time Romarinho – the Brazilian has been one of the players of the season – headed home. It prompted wild celebrations among the travelling fans who knew that their 14-year wait was almost over.

Al-Nassr were not about to give up without a fight however. After 56 minutes Abdulrahman Ghareeb passed back to the onrushing Gustavo who unleashed a rocket of a shot into the top corner of the Ettifaq goal from outside the area. It was a spectacular effort. With ten minutes remaining, it looked as if the game was won as Ghareeb pulled the ball back for Gustavo to fire an unstoppable shot into the Ettifaq net. It was ruled out by VAR, which spotted an offside in the build up. In the end, it didn’t really matter as Al-Ittihad rarely looked like losing their two-goal lead and their grip on the league trophy. Soon after, the Tigers made it 3-0 as Romarinho broke free to slot the ball home from just inside the area.


It meant that the celebrations could start in earnest as Al-Ittihad took the points before the end of the Al-Nassr game. It has been a deserved triumph.

Elsewhere, defending champions Al-Hilal moved into third place with a 3-0 win at Abha. Mohammed Al-Qahtani opened the scoring after 11 minutes and Odion Ighalo extended that lead a minute before the break. Abdullah Al-Hamdan added a third.

The relegation battle is hotting up. In the battle of the two teams at the bottom of the table, Al-Batin, who are already relegated, drew 2-2 with next to bottom Al-Adalah who are a point behind safety and Al-Khaleej who drew 0-0 with  Al-Raed. Al-Wedha are now safe after defeating Al-Tai 2-1.

The headlines however belong, for once, not to Criistiano Ronaldo, but to the new champions of Al-Ittihad.

Saudi First Division League partners with TikTok to stream season finale

Saudi First Division League partners with TikTok to stream season finale
Updated 27 May 2023

Saudi First Division League partners with TikTok to stream season finale

Saudi First Division League partners with TikTok to stream season finale
  • Video platform will stream league’s final round of matches on May 29

RIYADH: Saudi’s First Division League (FDL) is teaming up with TikTok, the world’s leading short video platform, to livestream some of the season’s final matches on both the FDL and Al Riyadiya TV channel accounts.

The matches will take place on May 29 during the last match week of the FDL.

The livestreams will be accessible globally, with TikTok also creating an FDL effect for users on the app.

This partnership with TikTok highlights the commitment of FDL — which is the third highest followed Arab football league on the platform — to bringing the action to a wider regional and global audience. FDL match broadcasts have captured more than 2 million unique viewers on Al Riyadiya TV’s TikTok account.

Fans will be offered an interactive viewing experience with the opportunity to engage with their favorite teams and players.

A standout among the FDL’s clubs on TikTok is Al-Riyadh FC, ranked fourth among Saudi football teams after top names such as Al-Hilal, Al-Nassr and Al-Ittihad. The most followed FDL club, it also ranks fifth in the MENA region, just behind Egypt’s Al-Ahly. Their soaring popularity garnered 100 million views in the past 30 days.

Talal Al-Obaidi, acting executive director at First Division League, said: “We at the First Division League are committed to driving advancements in media and marketing channels alongside our partners. As part of this endeavor, we worked on establishing the YELO League as the pioneering competition to introduce a dedicated region for swift interviews, known as the ‘TikTok Zone,’ to be officially sanctioned and successfully integrated into future operations.”

Meanwhile, Mohamed Harb, TikTok’s head of sports & gaming MENA, added: “We are thrilled to partner with Saudi’s First Division League to bring the world’s most exciting game to the global TikTok audience.

“This collaboration is a testament to our commitment to sports and gaming, and we look forward to providing an engaging and interactive platform for fans worldwide to tune in and cheer on their favorite teams.”

Saudi businessman appointed president of platform

Saudi businessman appointed president of platform
Updated 26 May 2023

Saudi businessman appointed president of platform

Saudi businessman appointed president of platform
  • Majed Al-Sorour’s role will include investment strategy, execution, strategic communications, investor relations
  • Entrepreneur was also the driving force behind LIV Golf

LONDON: Saudi businessman and senior executive Majed Al-Sorour was appointed president of sports platform on Friday.
A worldwide entrepreneur with a reputation for identifying performance potential in growth-focused businesses, Al-Sorour’s role will include investment strategy and execution as well as strategic communications and investor relations.
He has a particular interest in the sports and technology industries, said a media statement issued on Friday.
Hailing from a football background as a youth, Al-Sorour competed at a professional level for Al-Nassr Football Club, before later serving as a director.
He was appointed as CEO of Golf Saudi in 2018, one of many transformative catalysts for Vision 2030, overseeing the development of massive investment in the sport.
The Saudi businessman was also the driving force behind LIV Golf, acting as managing director from its inception to the end of the first season.
Al-Sorour also became a director of Newcastle United Football Club following its acquisition in 2021. bids to create the ultimate fan engagement experience in sport. The website is committed to pushing the boundaries of technology to deliver fan interactivity and engagement.