British professional boxer Amir Khan addressing boxing fans in Dubai.
It was a night to remember as hundreds of boxing and kickboxing fans, crying hoarse for their respective heroes, packed the Vista Ballroom of the Five Palm Jumeirah in Dubai on Friday night for high-octane action in the ring, courtesy Badou Jack Promotions and the host hotel.
The pugilists in action on the 13-fight card were from the US, UK, the Netherlands, Greece, Sweden, Ireland, Nigeria, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Thailand, the Philippines, Turkey, Syria, Saudi Arabia and Morocco.
Among the celebrities in attendance was famed British professional boxer and former unified light-welterweight world champion Amir Iqbal Khan.
The night’s main fight featured undefeated cruiserweight Viddal Riley, who came into Friday’s fight with an all-win record, including two KOs in his two-fight professional career.
However, last-minute replacement Austine Nnamdi of Nigeria took the fancied Riley to the distance, giving his fans at the venue much to cheer about.
The co-main event, a kickboxing contest saw an upset result when five-time Muay Thai World Champion Atakan ‘Avatar’ Arslan, who came with an incredible record of 58 wins, 8 losses and 51 knockouts into Friday’s bout, being himself knocked out in the very first round by his Greek opponent Christos Avramidis.
However, there were two fights particularly that had boxing fans at the edge of their seats.
First, National Pakistan Youth Team Champion Usman Wazeer, a product of the Islamabad-based Amir Khan Academy, who was making his professional debut. The legendary British boxer Amir Khan himself was at ringside to cheer him on.
However, the fight against Moroccan Brahim Oubenais was a close one, which Wazeer, in the end, won on a majority decision, much to the delight of the delirious Pakistanis in the crowd.
After the fight, Wazeer was quick to thank his mentor and “older brother” Amir Khan for his support to Pakistani boxers in general and to him in particular. “I am very happy for my first victory and Inshallah, I will make my country proud after more fights.”
Amir, who was in the ring after the winner was announced, said: “I’d like to give a vote of thanks to Badou Jack (Promotions) for giving us this opportunity. I think Dubai needs more boxing and it’s great that we can have these young boxers from Pakistan, India, Morocco… come to Dubai and showcase their performances here.”
Indian boxers did not have a particularly good outing as both pugilists from the country -- Pushkar Pundalik from the state of Goa and Sandeep Duggal from Punjab -- lost their bouts to much-superior opponents.
Pundalik went down on points to Anthony De Jubin of the Netherlands who was representing Dubai-based Round 10 Boxing Club. The Dutchman, also a gold-medallist of the UAE’s Light Welterweight Championship, was much too strong for the Indian who did manage to put up a valiant fight.
In the other bout featuring an Indian, it was the crowd favourite and the only two-time Emirati National Champion, Majid Al Naqbee, who got a unanimous 40-36 points decision in his favour over his opponent from Punjab, Sandeep Duggal.
The Emirati Naqbee was representing Round 10 Boxing Club of Dubai.
A fight that had the crowd on its toes was one between two heavyweights, specialist kickboxer Fatih Ulusoy of Turkey and twice-Asian champion Abdulmanem Kabbani from Syria.
Ulusoy, re-enacting the great Muhammad Ali’s famous rope-a-dope trick on his opponent, was a veritable punching bag for the two rounds, but in the process, tired out the Syrian.
In the last two rounds, the roles were reversed and the Turkish boxer gained ascendancy over his exhausted rival, whom he beat in the end, unanimously on points.
Amer Abdallah, CEO of Badou Jack Promotions, hailed the contribution of the man who put the event together, Badou Jack ‘The Ripper,’ the former world champion in two weight classes.
In response to the sold-out event and the overwhelming response of the massive crowds in attendance, Abdallah announced that Badou Jack Promotions and Five Palms would by the end of the year be hosting boxing in a big way on the beach of the Dubai Marina, which the boxing fans at the venue received with thunderous applause.
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