Saudi Arabia’s first professional boxer Zuhayr Al-Qahtani dreaming of Jeddah bout
LONDON: Saudi Arabian boxer Zuhayr Al-Qahtani’s dream of fighting in his home country could be realized as soon as September with “The Arabian Warrior” waiting on news of the destination of the forthcoming World Super Series super middleweight final.
The date and host of the highly-anticipated bout between British fighters George Groves and Callum Smith is expected to be announced this week by promoter Kalle Sauerland with King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah the expected venue around mid-September.
It is understood that if Saudi Arabia is confirmed, Jeddah-born Al-Qahtani who is the country’s only professional boxer and is represented by Irish promotion MTK Global, is in line to be included on the undercard.
When asked by Arab News if discussions had been held, Al-Qahtani was tight-lipped but admitted: “That is definitely a card I want to be on – it’s my hometown.”
The unbeaten lightweight added: “There are a few rumors going around, I’m just leaving them for now, but everything happens for a reason. My next fight could be in London… it could be somewhere else.”
Al-Qahtani, who extended his pro record to 4-0 with a comfortable victory over Dylan Draper in London earlier this month, should discover this week whether he’ll be part of what would be a landmark contest in the Middle East.
Jeddah was originally booked to host the blockbuster cruiserweight final between Oleksandr Usyk and Murat Gassiev on May 11 but the bout was postponed until July 21 and moved to Moscow after Usky suffered a minor elbow injury.
The World Boxing Super Series is owned and organized by Comosa AG who signed a deal last year with the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia to hold the cruiserweight decider, and the agreement means the Kingdom is now likely to receive the remaining super middleweight final, first mooted for Manchester or London.
On announcing the partnership last October, Comosa’s Chief Boxing Officer Sauerland also outlined a commitment to promote local fighters to help promote the sport in the region.
Al-Qahtani represents the best of Saudi boxing as the country’s only professional fighter and with an outstanding amateur record of 50-5 which included several national novice titles in the United Kingdom and the London ABAs.
The 29-year-old is an eye-catching technical fighter, relying on rapid combinations and quick feet who fights on the front foot and despite standing at just 5ft 6ins dominates his opponents with his hand speed and movement.
The lightweight made his debut for MTK Global at the famed York Hall in Bethnall Green earlier this month, defeating Draper via a points decision after four rounds and wants to make the step up to an eight or 10-round contest for his next fight.
Al-Qahtani also harbors ambitions of landing an early shot at the Asian title, although the fact he is yet to fight professionally past four rounds means that particular opportunity may be a bit too soon for him.
He said: “I’m back in training already. I gave myself two days off after the Draper fight to relax, sit there and contemplate what I need to do next and work on.
“Everybody tells me I’m improving each time I fight but I’m yet to have achieved my pinnacle result. I know I’m ready for a title fight but it’s all up to MTK and they know what is best for me.
“MTK liked what they saw in London and said I boxed really well and liked my movement. There are no problems with my fitness I know I’m good for eight, 10 or 12 rounds. That’s when everyone will get to see the best of me.”
Russian Pavel Malikov holds the WBA Asian lightweight strap having won it in December, 2016 by beating Adones Aguelo of the Philippines in Ekaterinberg. Malikov lost his last fight in April to Indonesia’s Daud Yordan but the Asian title was not on the line.