Jeddah: It will be easy to bring a world title fight to the UAE now that Saudi Arabia has done it, according to Saudi super-lightweight Zuhayr Al Qahtani.
The 29-year-old is the only Saudi fighter on the undercard of Friday’s World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) super-middleweight final between George Groves and Callum Smith at Jeddah’s Sports City.
The London-based engineering graduate, who left Jeddah for the UK aged 12 and first stepped into a gym at 15, will also be the first Saudi to fight on home soil when he faces an as yet unknown opponent after Georgia’s Giorgi Gviniashvili pulled out.
“Saudi has done something amazing, it’s beaten the rest of the GCC to hosting a big fight and if it can happen here it will be a piece of cake to do it in Dubai or Abu Dhabi,” he said of attracting high level contests to the UAE, something that’s yet to have been done in the emirates.
“There’s a much higher percentage of locals to expats in Saudi than in the UAE, 35 million people, so to do it in Saudi is bigger than anywhere else in the Middle East, they’ve set the margin now and anywhere else will be easy.”
Asked if the sport will stick, he replied: “Absolutely, Jeddah should constantly host these kinds of fights, as it has amazing stadiums, and the annual WBSS is a great concept to introduce the sport to new followers.
“People in the UK are complaining that we have two Brit fighters boxing in Saudi but it shouldn’t always be about the UK and US, people need to understand boxing is a worldwide sport, fans need to travel and see new cultures and for me to box on this undercard is making history as I’m the first Saudi pro to fight in Saudi.
“This is bigger than me. I’m doing it for my family, country, honour and legacy. There’s so much behind it, it’s not just about getting in the ring to perform.
“I’m going to be the face of the sport in Saudi, for this to happen in the Middle East now is the perfect time for me to intervene and say look we have the talent, there’s so much more, you just need to recognise it. My stepping forward will bring that talent forward.
“I don’t want to steal the limelight away from Groves or Smith but in a way I’ll be the main event for Saudi, and even if it happened anywhere else in the Middle East I’d be that face of boxing in the region because of my abilities.”
Al Qahtani has fought 55 times at an amateur level losing five but is unbeaten in four since turning professional last year.