How An Epic Fight Sparked A Boxing Explosion In The UAE

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times)

Published: Sat 1 Oct 2022, 8:29 PM

Last updated: Sat 1 Oct 2022, 8:36 PM

When Diego Corrales dragged himself off the mat to deliver a stunning victory over Jose Luis Castillo in the 10th round of an epic boxing match in Las Vegas, Nevada, back in 2005, little did he know that his heroism would have a stunning impact on an Emirati teenager watching the fight in Dubai.

Corrales a 27-year-old Colombian-Mexican fighter with a 39-2 record, was on the brink of losing his WBO lightweight title to 31-year-old Castillo (52-6-1) after being dealt two blistering knockdowns in the space of a minute. As he staggered to his corner to retrieve the mouthpiece, Corrales' coach, Joe Gossen, yelled at him to 'Get inside on him'. And he did.

Full of renewed confidence, the bloodied Corrales began to dish out his own punishment that brought the sell-out crowd at Mandalay Bay to their feet, sensing something special was about to happen.

A hard right hand followed by a flurry of combinations pushed Castillo to the ropes as Corrales went for the kill, landing bombs that forced referee Tony Weeks to step in and end the punishment. It was one of the most sensational come-from-behind victories that the sport had ever witnessed and till today is regarded as the 'Round of the Century' in the boxing world.

The impact

Watching the action glued to his television in Dubai was 21-year-old Ahmed Siddiqi who could not believe his eyes. This was unreal, a sporting drama like never before. He was so moved by a fight that had yielded the most incredible ending that years later he opened the UAE's first professional, specialised boxing gym in Al Quoz, Dubai, in September 2013. He called it Round 10 Boxing Club as a tribute to the epic battle that Corrales and Castillo staged in Las Vegas.

One of the most specialised boxing gyms in the Emirates, Round 10 has helped raise awareness, breed top fighters and develop the sport of boxing among locals and ex-pats. The unpretentious facility offers intimate boxing classes, as well as a full range of conditioning and technique classes for the full-fledged fighter.

The home of boxing

“As long as you have the right team, you can achieve anything,” says Ahmed of his beloved gym where he spends most of his time.“At Round 10. It's all about teamwork. We are the home of boxing in the UAE, a genuine home. We are the pioneers. I'm saying it with confidence but in a very humble way. We are professional. It's the right boxing mentality that has helped us reach where we are today.'

Ahmed, who was born into a prominent Emirati business family, has devoted his life to pioneering the development of boxing in the country. And his efforts have not been lost on the boxing world.“We are known by the top international boxing promoters from Top Rank's Bob Arum to Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing, they respect us for what we do as the region's leading boxing management,” he adds.

“In terms of training fighters, bringing top quality coaches, and moulding the boxers, this is what Round 10 stands for,” says Ahmed. From the time it started, Round 10 has been moving forward and has not stopped growing. They are not flash but very practical and genuine. Ahmed frequently talks about building a strong sporting community in Dubai and how he has helped construct a strong franchise model that has helped boost the sport exponentially.

Round 10 was well received right from the outset and with the help of sharp market research that helped Ahmed and his team understand the business of boxing even better. Today most of the many gyms in the Emirates are doing well and Ahmed and his team can take credit for that, thanks to their community focused facility that teaches authentic boxing and not just fitness and exercising.

Where the best fighters train

As the sport of boxing began to develop in the UAE, the value of Round 10 grew even higher. By regularly conducting fight camps, both locally and internationally, it helped their fighters gain exposure and hone their skills. Exciting young fighters like Sultan Al Nuaimi (8 wins, 0 losses) and Fahad Al Bloushi (9-1) are flag-bearers for Emiratis.

The club also boasts of a very strict process of hiring coaches who share the same passion and values that Round 10 stands for. All the coaches at the club are either current PRO fighters or ex PRO fighters.

Former coach Lasisi Allu Bamdele from Nigher also enjoyed a successful pro career simultaneously where he won 16 fights while Afghanistan's Hasbullah Ahmadi, who joined the club as a teenager, went on to win the WBC Asian featherweight title last year.

A magnet for celebrities

Round 10 is one of the most visited clubs for celebrity boxers when they are in the UAE with the likes of eight-division Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, heavyweight champions Anthony Joshua and Tyson Fury, and light welterweight sensation Amir Khan from the UK, all dropped by the Al Quoz facility.

Pacquiao may have never fought in the UAE, there were talks to stage a mega fight. Irrespective of that, he has had a big impact on the young fighters during his visit to Round 10. The fighter, who was in town to compete in the Philippines Basketball Association tournament, interacted with the up-and-coming boxers and left behind a lasting impression.

Another interesting visitor was the Chinese National Boxing Team as was the likes of Venezuela's Jorge Linares, a boxing champion in three weight divisions, Rocky Fielding a former super middleweight champion from the UK, and Olympian Badou Jack. So far, Ahmed has successfully hosted 21 Fight Nights at the gym to raise awareness among the local boxing community. The sport surely has come a long way, thanks to promoters like him.

Boxing in the UAE

The UAE's first ever major fight took place on March 27, 1997, at the Dubai Tennis Stadium when Chris Eubank, the British former world super middleweight champion, fought little-known Colombian Camilo Alarcon in Dubai as part of a comeback tour. Eubank won via a fourth-round knockout.

So far, Ahmed has successfully hosted 21 Fight Nights at the gym to raise awareness among the local boxing community. The sport surely has come a long way, thanks to promoters like him. Driven by his passion, Round 10 also hosts and supports fight events across the UAE and internationally.

When did the world's first boxing school open?

Jack Broughton, the reigning heavyweight champion from 1734 to 1758, is credited with creating the first boxing school.

He also helped formulate the first set of boxing rules and was the inventor of 'mufflers', the forerunner to modern-day boxing gloves.

Broughton also encouraged high society gentlemen to crossover from sponsoring fighters and become fighters themselves.

As boxing crossed the Atlantic in the early 19th century into America, it did not enjoy much popularity until President Theodore Roosevelt became a fan and promoter of the sport.


Khaleej Times

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