‘Arabian Warrior’ Zuhayr Al-Qahtani excited to fight in homeland of Saudi Arabia
LONDON: Zuhayr Al-Qahtani is ready to make history when he becomes the first professional Saudi Arabian boxer to fight in the Kingdom and has warned fans “not to blink” as he promises to bring entertainment to Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City on September 28.
Al-Qahtani has been confirmed on the undercard of the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final between George Groves and Callum Smith, realizing a dream of competing in his birthplace he’s held since he first picked up a pair of gloves in his teens.
The identity of Triple Z’s opponent at super-lightweight will not be confirmed until next week but the 29-year-old has promised to put on a show in Jeddah as he builds for a shot at the Asian title next year.
When asked by Arab News as to what the crowd should expect, he replied: “The rise of the Arabian Warrior. This is the beginning. I’m ready to make history. I only bring excitement to my fights, they’re never boring. Keep your eyes open and try not to blink.
“Given the level I’ve been training at, I don’t think any fighter, anyone, can beat me over four rounds so I’m not really worried about who they put me with.
“Without trying to sound cocky, I do believe unless the guy runs around, he will get stopped. If my opponent decides to be eager, he’ll stay in the middle and get knocked out 100 percent.
“The fans like to watch a gladiator in action and I am that gladiator, I’m a crowd pleaser.”
The south London-based fighter, whose professional record stands at 4-0, has felt a mixture of excitement and nerves since learning he will be competing in his home country. He joked he could sell out the 62,000-capacity stadium on his own, such has been volume of ticket requests he’s received from family members and friends in the Kingdom and across the region.
But one family member who will not be there is the person who’s been the biggest inspiration to him throughout his career – his mother, who refuses to watch any of his fights due to her finding them too violent.
When Al-Qahtani was competing at the 2010 Asian Games with no financial support for travel or accommodation, she gave him money and all he achieves he puts down to her guidance. She will also be the last person he speaks to before he steps into the ring as part of his traditional pre-fight routine.
“She’s so happy for me. She’s calling everyone up, saying ‘my son is boxing on this day you better watch it.’ She’s over the moon,” he said.
“In my early career I boxed at the Asian Games in 2010 and no one supported me and my mum pulled out $3,000 from her own pocket to help me at the Games, to help me pursue my goal.
“That opened the way for me. My mum was a spark in my life, and she sparked my potential. Where I am now and where I’ll be in my future fights will be because of my mum.
“I’ll call her before the fight and say, ‘I’m about to get started’ and she prays for me and says, ‘God bless you my son, you have worked hard and you will get what you want.’”
Although fighting in Jeddah is a dream come true, for Al-Qahtani it is just the next step on his mission to become a champion of Asia, and then the world. And while he admits it is a huge buzz being part of such a massive event as the Groves-Smith fight, the main feeling is of envy and determination that he can one day headline a bout of this magnitude.
“I have an ideology, every dream comes true, if you pursue it. Either way, if it wasn’t on George Groves’ undercard, I would have my own undercard, I would be the main event.
“The only inspiration I get is jealously — I want to be the main event. I’m waiting for the day when you see Zuhayr Al-Qahtani v (Vasyl) Lomachenko or (Terence) Crawford or whoever. When I sleep, I shadow box. I’m so excited, I can’t wait.”