Saudi boxing star Zuhayr Al-Qahtani vows to entertain ahead of ONE Championship debut in Qatar

Saudi boxing star Zuhayr Al-Qahtani vows to entertain ahead of ONE Championship debut in Qatar
The ‘Arabian Warrior’, right, is preparing to take on Mehdi Zatout of France at ONE 166 on March 1. (Instagram: @zuhayralqahtani)
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Updated 08 February 2024
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Saudi boxing star Zuhayr Al-Qahtani vows to entertain ahead of ONE Championship debut in Qatar

Saudi boxing star Zuhayr Al-Qahtani vows to entertain ahead of ONE Championship debut in Qatar
  • ‘Arabian Warrior’ is preparing to take on Mehdi Zatout of France at ONE 166 on March 1

Zuhayr Al-Qahtani holds the distinction of being the first Saudi to secure a professional boxing title, claiming the World Boxing Council Middle East belt in 2019 on the undercard of Joshua vs. Ruiz 2.

Boasting an undefeated 9-0 record, the “Arabian Warrior” is prepared for a historic clash against Mehdi Zatout at ONE 166 on March 1.

ONE Championship, known for showcasing the world’s elite striking talent, particularly in kickboxing and Muay Thai, surprised fans with the announcement of its first traditional boxing match since 2018. In Al-Qahtani, the organization may well have the ideal fighter with which to lead its inaugural venture into the Gulf, thanks to his standout personality.

“I’m representing the whole boxing world, the Gulf region, the Arabian Peninsula,” Al-Qahtani said in an interview with Arab News.

“I’ve got ONE Championship now. This is the start of a great journey. We’ve got the perfect opponent, a perfect candidate for this fight with an excellent resume. It’s a historical event, a historical moment, in a historical fight.”

Speaking via Zoom and sporting a slick pair of sunglasses, the trailblazing pugilist is clearly well-versed in the “fight game” and knows how to promote a bout.

“I aim to please the fans,” he said. “The fans are my number one objective. And I look at this like Maximus from ‘Gladiator’ (2000) in the Colosseum, asking, ‘Are you not entertained?’ This is what I look for. This is what I want the fans to bring. And this is what I want to give to the fans.”

The 34-year-old is relishing the opportunity to showcase his skills against a man with over 120 fights, making his pro boxing debut at 40.

“It’s a completely different ball game. He’s going to come in unexpectedly, throwing wild, crazy punches. So, I do expect him to do some unexpected stuff. I just hope he doesn’t kick me.”

Frenchman Zatout, a veteran in Muay Thai with two national titles in France, a European championship, and two world titles, presents an unknown challenge in the sweet science, but Al-Qahtani sees a kindred spirit in the veteran who will be returning to competition after initially retiring in 2022.

“We are both entertainers. We’re both there to please the crowd. I’m here to entertain the fans, to make excitement ... Mehdi is a great man. He deserves full respect. However, he made one mistake — he picked the wrong opponent.”

Al-Qahtani was born in Jeddah and later moved to London, where his journey to the ring began after facing adversity as a young man trying to find his way in a sometimes harsh and unfamiliar environment in the capital.

“I left Saudi at a young age to come to England to study. I faced bullying, harassment, attacks. My brother taught me the basics of self-defense. Then, my mum advised my brother to take me to Fitzroy Lodge, the most notorious gym in London. ‘Here you’ll be rewarded for your ability to use it,’ my brother said. I stuck to it.”

Formative experiences lacing up the gloves lit a fire in the youngster, and an opportunity to make history only enhanced his resolve.

“I started looking through the history book of boxing to see if there’s any fighter from Saudi or the Gulf region. To my sadness, I didn’t see anyone achieving a gold medal in the Olympics or a world champion. I felt alone. I sacrificed everything to be the first Saudi to win anything. As an amateur, I had 55 fights: five losses and 50 wins. I knew then I was good, something different. I was born a fighter, but I was molded in London.”

For Al-Qahtani, achieving several objectives, including becoming Saudi Arabia’s first professional boxer and winning a WBC title, is just a stepping stone to greater ambitions, and opportunity knocks at ONE 166.


Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries

Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries
Updated 23 May 2024
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Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries

Saudi and Japanese football leagues to work together to develop the sport in both countries
  • They will collaborate on ways to achieve sustainable growth of the sport, enhance the standard of football, and facilitate exchange of expertise between players and coaches
  • The agreement also includes plans for talent-discovery networks, cultural-exchange events, and friendly matches between Japanese and Saudi clubs

RIYADH: The Saudi Pro League and Japan’s Professional Football League have signed an agreement to cooperate on ways to develop the sport in both countries.

To achieve this they will work with teams in both leagues and collaborate on ways to achieve sustainable growth of the sport, enhance the standard of football, facilitate the exchange of experiences and resources between players and coaches, and establish an effective system for communication about technical and administrative matters.

The agreement was signed on the sidelines of a Saudi-Japanese business forum by the vice chair of the SPL’s board of directors, Saad Allazeez, and Yoshokaze Ninomura of the J.League.

Allazeez said the agreement reflects the SPL’s transformation strategy and added: “This partnership will open new horizons for exchanging experiences and promoting the continuous development in the field of football between the two countries.

“We look forward to working with our counterparts in Japan to raise the level of the game at all levels.”

The agreement also includes support for the continued growth and development of SPL and J.League through workshops and conferences to consider ideas for strengthening football infrastructure, cooperation in talent-discovery networks to help identify and nurture stars of the future, cultural-exchange events that celebrate the diverse cultures of the two countries and enhance the global appeal of football, and friendly matches between Japanese and Saudi clubs.


Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run

Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run
Updated 23 May 2024
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Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run

Lookman hat-trick fires Atalanta to Europa League, ends Leverkusen’s unbeaten run
  • Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy

DUBLIN: Ademola Lookman scored a stunning hat-trick as Atalanta ended Bayer Leverkusen’s 51-match unbeaten run to win the Europa League final 3-0 on Wednesday and claim their first trophy for 61 years.
Lookman became the first player to score a hat-trick in a European final since 1975 to secure Atalanta’s first ever continental trophy.
“One of the best nights of my life. Amazing performance from the team,” said Lookman.
“We’ve got to celebrate, we made history tonight.”
The side from Bergamo have long lived in the shadow of nearby giants AC and Inter Milan.
However, they have enjoyed a golden era under Gian Piero Gasperini, reaching the Champions League on four occasions, and now have silverware to show for it.
Leverkusen have made a habit of late fightbacks in their remarkable run to winning a first ever Bundesliga title without tasting defeat.
But this time they failed to dig themselves out of a hole created by a slow start.
“It’s a shame that the time it didn’t work out for us was in a final,” said Leverkusen midfielder Granit Xhaka.
“It’s bitter, definitely, we lost a final today but we go on and we’ll make up for it on Saturday (in the German Cup final).
Atalanta’s more purposeful play in the opening stages was rewarded after just 12 minutes.
Davide Zappacosta got to the by-line and Lookman caught Exequiel Palacios napping to fire into the top corner at the back post.
The Nigerian has at times endured a nomadic career, bouncing around the lower reaches of the Premier League on loan spells at Fulham and Leicester after being discarded by RB Leipzig.
But Lookman has found a home in Bergamo, where he will now forever be a hero.

The 26-year-old’s second goal was fit to win any final as he nutmegged Xhaka before curling a powerful shot into the far corner.
Leverkusen’s flying full-backs have been at the heart of their stunning season and should have got them back in the game either side of half-time.
Alex Grimaldo fired tamely into the arms of Juan Musso before Jeremie Frimpong blazed over with the goal gaping.
Leverkusen were also denied a lifeline when Gianluca Scamacca was lucky to escape with a yellow card for wild challenge on Florian Wirtz.
For the fourth time in seven Europa League knockout matches, Xabi Alonso’s men found themselves 2-0 down.
Alonso has enjoyed a rapid rise to become one of Europe’s hottest coaching properties.
The Spaniard has rejected the advances of former clubs Liverpool and Bayern Munich to remain at the BayArena next season.
However, Alonso’s decision to start without a recognized striker did not work and he threw on Victor Boniface at half-time to give his side a focal point up front.
The damage, though, was already done as the German champions looked a side drained by their record run across three competitions.
Atalanta were happy to soak up the Leverkusen pressure after the break and hit on the counter-attack.
The final blow was another fabulous finish from Lookman as he skipped past Edmond Tapsoba and this time blasted into the top corner on his weaker left foot.
Atalanta had lost all three of their previous finals under Gasperini, most recently in last week’s Coppa Italia defeat to Juventus.
But this time they were not to be denied their shot at history as they were roared across the finishing line by the thousands clad in blue and black that had made the trip from northern Italy to the Irish capital.
In doing so they became the first Italian side to win the competition since Parma lifted the UEFA Cup in 1999.


Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win

Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win
Updated 22 May 2024
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Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win

Djokovic celebrates 37th birthday with much-needed win
  • The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Djokovic as a cake with candles was brought out onto the court

GENEVA: Novak Djokovic celebrated his 37th birthday on Wednesday with a much-needed win as he gears up for his French Open title defense, progressing to the Geneva quarter-finals.
The world number one downed Germany’s Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 in the second round at the Parc des Eaux-Vives grounds.
Djokovic took a wild card to play in Geneva in a bid to rescue an alarming dip in form ahead of next week’s French Open, the second Grand Slam of the year.
The crowd sang “Happy Birthday” to Djokovic as a cake with candles was brought out onto the court following his win.
He lifted the cake and showed it off to the crowd, having a nibble before offering some to the ball boys and girls.


Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener

Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener
Updated 22 May 2024
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Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener

Rain washes out England-Pakistan T20 opener
  • Match was supposed to be launchpad for England’s defense next month of T20 World Cup title
  • Both teams will now meet each other on Saturday at Edgbaston in second of four-match series 

Leeds, United Kingdom: Persistent rain saw the first Twenty20 international between England and Pakistan at Headingley on Wednesday abandoned without a ball being bowled.

The match was meant to be the launchpad for reigning champions England’s defense next month of their T20 World Cup title in the Caribbean and the United States.

But a heavy and lengthy downpour in Leeds led the umpires to call the game off approximately an hour before the scheduled 17:30 GMT start.

The four-match series against Pakistan, the team England beat to win the 2022 T20 World Cup final in Melbourne, will now continue at Birmingham’s Edgbaston ground on Saturday before games next week in Cardiff and at the Oval.

England were also the defending champions heading into last year’s 50-over World Cup in India but Jos Buttler’s men suffered a tame exit, losing six of their nine matches.

The Pakistan T20 series could see the return to international duty of England fast bowler Jofra Archer. Injuries have blighted the quick’s career, with elbow and back problems sidelining the 29-year-old from top-level cricket for 14 months.


2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas

2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas
Updated 22 May 2024
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2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas

2024 LIV Golf Team Championship heads to Dallas
  • Fans throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will welcome LIV Golf’s star-studded teams for the season finale
  • LIV Golf CEO: ‘Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition’

LONDON, NEW YORK, WEST PALM BEACH: LIV Golf announced on Wednesday the details for the league’s 2024 Team Championship, scheduled to take place Sep. 20-22, 2024, at Maridoe Golf Club in Carrollton, Texas.
Fans throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex will welcome LIV Golf’s star-studded teams for the season finale, with the excitement of head-to-head competition featuring both match play and stroke play that will determine the 2024 LIV Golf League Team Champions.
“Our LIV Golf players are looking forward to playing in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with its great golf tradition,” LIV Golf Commissioner and CEO Greg Norman said in a media statement.
“Texas is legendary for producing and hosting great golfers who set a high bar while competing for championships. Our LIV Golf Team Championship at Maridoe Golf Club will be a great experience for our players and all the fans in attendance,” added Norman.
“This year’s Team Championship at Maridoe Golf Club holds special significance for me as we make our Dallas debut and our team strives to defend our title in front of a home crowd,” said Bryson DeChambeau, Crushers GC captain.
“I’m excited to play this course and compete in front of Texas fans for our closing event and can’t wait to bring LIV Golf’s electrifying energy and fierce competition to Dallas,” DeChambeau added.
Meanwhile, Maridoe Golf Club founder Albert Huddleston, said: “Maridoe has been honored to previously host the Southern Amateur, Trans-Mississippi Amateur, East West Cup Matches, USGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship as well as two 2020 COVID tournaments won by Scottie Scheffler and Brandon Wu.”
Maridoe is designed to be an enjoyable but demanding member’s club, according to Huddleston, while always ready to provide a great test for elite golfers to entertain golf enthusiasts.
Maridoe Golf Club, located just 20 miles from downtown Dallas, was ranked by Golf Digest among the top three new private courses in 2018. Built on the site of the old Columbian Club and designed by Steve Smyers, the course is considered among the most difficult in the Metroplex, tipping out at 7,817 yards, and will be the host for LIV Golf’s 2024 finale — a three-day, survive-and-advance tournament featuring team match play and stroke play.
For the LIV Golf Team Championship, teams will be seeded 1-13 based on the final regular season team standings following the 13th event, LIV Golf Chicago, taking place Sep. 13-15 at Bolingbrook Golf Club. Adjustments to the Team Championship format have been implemented to enhance the competition across the three days at Maridoe.
In addition to hosting world-class competition, the LIV Golf Team Championship will feature live music entertainment and family-friendly fun for all ages. Fans can secure the ultimate tournament experience with LIV Golf’s renowned hospitality packages, each delivering an array of amenities.
Tickets for the Team Championship are on sale now at LIVGolf.com