Abu Dhabi: Emirati boxing enjoyed its moment in the international spotlight on Saturday, with three UAE nationals showcasing their skills on the undercard of the WBA Light-Heavyweight title fight between Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto Ramirez at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.
The inaugural event of the new Champion Series, the landmark partnership between Matchroom Boxing and the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi), saw Fahad Al Bloushi and Sultan Al Nuaimi claim historic wins before a solitary blemish as Majid Al Naqbi was handed the first defeat of his career. The three-time national champion vowed to “learn from the loss”.
The evening opened with Super-Featherweight Al Bloushi dominating all six rounds to defeat his Georgian opponent Iraki Shariashvili by unanimous decision and extend his record to 11 wins from 12 fights. The judges, having watched “The Emirati Kid” pepper Shariashvili with quick jabs and body shots in front of a vocal home crowd, scored it 60-54, 59-55, 59-55.
“I feel on cloud nine,” said Al Bloushi, who adorned black and gold shorts emblazoned with the UAE flag. “When I walked out and saw all the fans, I was surprised. Usually for the first fight of the night, the crowd is smaller, but the crowd here was so loud and calling my name. I feel like a superstar just now.
“I made my mum proud, my dad proud, the whole country proud. Putting that statement out to the whole country means a lot to me because this is my hometown; it gave me everything and I’m just trying to give that same thing back. This win is for the whole UAE – all seven emirates.”
Later in the evening, Super-Flyweight Al Nuaimi stopped Sohaib Haque in the seventh round to extend his undefeated record to nine wins. Late in the seventh, Al Nuaimi delivered a barrage of blows, including a body blow that left Haque backing off and turning away from the Emirati in pain. Before Al Nuaimi could capitalise on his Indian opponent having dropped his arms to his side, the referee stepped in to end the contest.
“Just knowing this is the biggest fight night in the UAE’s history and you performed really well…” said Al Nuaimi, who enjoyed loud support throughout. “It’s such an honour to show the world there are local-based fighters that can perform to a high level. We’re trying to attract people into the sport because others are focusing on other sports and ignoring boxing even when it’s growing all over the world. We just want to attract more locals into this sport and this is just the beginning.”
Entering the ring looking to complete an Emirati hat-trick of victories, Al Naqbi – a three-time national champion – came up short against John Lawrence Ordonio over four rounds, the Filipino Lightweight winning by unanimous decision 40-36, 40-36, 39-37. Following a first career defeat in eight fights, Al Naqbi said he will take the lessons and come back better.
“I am a man of God and this was my destiny,” he said. “He was a tough opponent and this my first loss. I don’t have to give excuses. I’m accepting my loss as a man. I’ll take it, but I am going to learn a lot from this, improve, and come back better. The way to success is hard and if you don’t taste failure, you’ll never understand what success truly looks like.”
Asked whether the strong local turnout and the Champion Series – which intends to return to the UAE capital in 2023 with more high-profile fight nights – provides more motivation to work to improve, Al Naqbi was unequivocal: “One hundred per cent. There’s a fire inside me to come back in a different weight division.”