Excitement has reached fever pitch as Qatar is all set to witness explosive boxing at ONE Championship’s upcoming ONE 166: Qatar on March 1 at the Lusail Sports Arena.
Marking ONE’s blockbuster debut in Qatar, Saudi Arabia’s Zuhayr Al Qahtani will take on Algerian-French star Mehdi Zatout in four-ounce gloves with the bout being contested at 147 pounds.
Popularly known as “The Arabian Warrior”, Al Qahtani is the Middle East champion at the renowned World Boxing Council (WBC). Based in Britain, he is currently training ahead of his anticipated fight against Zatout, a veteran coach andMMA star.
Considered one of Saudi Arabia’s best martial artists, Al Qahtani has an unblemished 9-0 professional boxing record and he is all geared up for scoring another win that would take him 10-0, a record tocherish forever.
Zuhayr is ready to make history when he becomes the first professional Arab boxer to fight in Qatar and has advised fans to ‘keep eyes open and try not to blink’.
As he promises to bring ‘entertainment and destruction’ to the Lusail Sports Arena, the 34-year-old trailblazer will surely come into the contest with plenty of support from fans in attendance and look to make a statement against Zatout.
Exuding confidence about going hammer and tongs at his opponent during an exclusive interview with Qatar Tribune, Al Qahtani said, “I am not being cocky. Neither do I want to sound rude or disrespectful. However, I will say one thing that I am a prizefighter. I have one job only and that is to destroy whoever comes in front of me in the ring. Whoever they put in front of me on that particular day, I’m coming for one purpose only and that is to cause entertainment and destruction.”
“It’s going to be an exciting match, it’s going to be fireworks, it’s going to be duck and dive. I guarantee my hand will be lifted that night,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s first fighter to forge a career in professional boxing, Al Qahtani’s boxing journey began when his blissful childhood in Saudi Arabia was interrupted as his family sent him and his five brothers to live in London.
The teenage years of rough ‘n’ tumble in south London made him the fighter he is today.
In London, he said, “I was exposed to a lot of difficult situations. I was bullied and started to have so many fights at school. One day my mother noticed a black eye and a busted lip so she made my brother, who is eight years older, train me. He was already boxing and he taught me how to defend myself,” he said.
“My brother is an amazing character and he is my role model. I did not know anything about boxing, all I knew was wrestling. It was my brother who took me to a gym and introduced me to boxing as he was a very good boxer. He’s very talented. He put me in the ring, taught me the basics of boxing, showed me the fundamentals, and it’s because of him I’m here. He is the core foundation of my boxing career and till today he is my mentor,” he said.
About the role his mother played in shaping the person he is today, Al Qahtani said, “My mother is responsible for everything that I have today. While my brother was the pillar, my mom is the foundation of everything that I have achieved today. She is the one from whom I have received the best advice and that is ‘don’t give up’ and keep going.”
Zuhayr told Qatar Tribune that he was excited about being able to fight in Qatar, a country that is very close to his heart.
“Qatar is very beautiful and fast emerging as a developed country. I’m excited, and I’m overwhelmed to be here and represent the Arab world. My ambition is to put the Gulf region on the world map of boxing,” he said.
Asked if ONE Championship can become a powerhouse in the Gulf region, he said, “Absolutely. ONE Champion is a giant and it’s going to revolutionise this whole region. They look for talent, they make dreams happen. As you can see right now, they’re making my dream happen. So, it’s definitely they’re here. They’re here at the present and they will be here in the future.”
ONE’s first event in Qatar, ONE 166: Qatar will be headlined by “De Ridder vs Malykhin II”. Reinier De Ridder will defend his MMA Middleweight world title against undefeated MMA Russian star Anatoly Malykhin, who already holds both the Heavyweight and Light Heavyweight world titles at ONE, and is eying a historic win that would make him a three-division MMA champion.
The card also features a rematch for the Strawweight MMA title between champion Jarred Brooks of the United States and Joshua Pacio of the Philippines and a pivotal heavyweight MMA clash between India’s first-ever MMA champion and former heavyweight champion Arjan Bhullar and Iran’s Greco-Roman wrestling world champion Amir Aliakbari. More bouts will be announced soon.
Founded by Thai entrepreneur and lifelong martial artist Chatri Sityodtong in 2011, ONE Championship is a Singapore-based martial arts organization whose events showcase contests in Muay Thai, Kickboxing, Submission Grappling, and MMA.
Valued at around $1.4 billion, ONE has grown to become the world’s largest martial arts organisation and has been ranked as the fifth largest sports property in terms of online viewership by Nielsen.
Its roster boasts some of the best martial artists from more than 80 countries, including MMA great Demetrious Johnson, Muay Thai star Rodtang Jitmuangnon, undefeated MMA Russian star Anatoly Malykhin, and Kickboxing icon Superlek.
ONE held an event (ONE 165) in Japan recently and will be holding more than 60 events this year in Thailand, the United States, and Qatar.
Fans can purchase tickets for ONE 166: Qatar at Virgin Megastore or Q-Ticket!