Dubai is a location primed to host boxing’s glitz and glamour. It’s a matter of when, not if, a world title fight will be held in the UAE. But that when seems so far away right now.
The biggest names – most recently Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan two years ago – have proposed clashes in the region, yet one of such magnitude has not occurred since Chris Eubank fought at the Aviation Club back in 1997.
That could soon change, though. The way to bring boxing to the region is either from the bottom up, or top down. Either the sport is slowly introduced with the seeds then growing to allow those at the top of the tree to visit, or a huge clash is hosted and the impact trickles down.
The former holds most weight. Muslim pugilist and former two-weight champ Badou Jack hosts his first combat sports promotion here in Dubai at the FIVE Palm Jumeirah on May 3 live on Fite.TV, and the hope is that this foray into the business side of boxing could lead to a title fight of his own in the region.
Jack, who fights under the banner of Mayweather Promotions, is emerging as a prominent name for boxing in the Middle East. The 35-year-old is targeting a return to the ring late in summer after suffering a points defeat to Marcus Browne earlier this year, albeit with the mitigating circumstance of a sickening cut to his forehead from a clash of heads.
In the meantime, the focus for the Swede and his team is fixed upon building boxing in Dubai.
“As far as other fights not coming off, I have my own speculation as to why they didn’t happen but put that to one side, it’s no coincidence that Badou Jack Promotions is launching in Dubai,” said Amer Abdallah, CEO of Badou Jack Promotions and Jack’s business manager.
“It’s not a coincidence that we brought Badou Jack, the only Muslim world champ, to Dubai because our absolute goal is to have him fight for a world title here. Floyd Mayweather after Badou’s last fight said ‘I’m going to get you another world title fight’.
“Last night I had a conversation with Leonard Ellerbe (CEO of Mayweather Promotions), who by the way is planning on making the trip to the event, and he said ‘absolutely, if the offer makes sense Mayweather Promotions is 100 percent behind Badou Jack fight in Dubai or in the UAE, or in the Middle East.
“There is no barrier, we just have to prove that this model works and we have to make May 3 an event, bring enough excitement to Five Palm Jumeirah and watch on Fite TV so that there is enough spark. Once we have a spark, we’ll blow on it and make it a fire but that’s what we need.”
One of the biggest barriers for boxing in the region is its brutal and barbaric perception.
Communicating the intricacies and nuances of the Sweet Science is one of the cornerstones for Badou Jack Promotions. This is not an event fixed on financial reward – the proceeds will be going to Jack’s foundation which has seen him spend time between fights in Jordan and Syria.
But the ripple effect to help lay the foundations for big boxing events is the initial aim.
“We’re not looking at this thing and counting our dollars and saying this makes sense,” Abdallah tells Sport360.
“The way that this thing makes sense is that people walk away from the event wanting more. It’s that the press, the spectators and the online viewers, the companies, sponsors, government and tourism industry all say this is what we need in the region.
“It then opens up the door, not just for Badou Jack Promotions, but for other boxing promotions that are here as well.
“People have to walk away saying ‘what an event’ and ‘how can we bring more of this’.”
One of the mechanisms to help hype events such as this will be the attendance of influential figures.
Former light-welterweight king Amir Khan is one such person who will be there, as will KSI.
The latter is a massive YouTube personality and after Jack walked the Briton out for his amateur clash with another internet superstar, Logan Paul, he’ll now be in attendance for this event as his coach Viddal Riley fights on the May 3 card.
Abdallah adds: “It’s funny, KSI came to Las Vegas, he came to the Mayweather Boxing Club, he trained with Floyd Sr. and he sparred with Badou. It was fun, they had a great time, a very private event of course but they had their own YouTube channel for it.
“Badou fights Adonis Stevenson, a legitimate fight, a unification title fight, a huge bout and I’m scrolling through the comments and one guy says ‘isn’t that guy who sparred KSI?’
“I’m thinking ‘what?!’. We’re so entwined in boxing that these guys have no idea about that so we’re bridging an entire demographic from an different market into the combat sports world.
By: Alex Rea