x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Adam Hollioake is not short on confidence before Fighting Chance Dubai

Former England cricket captain Adam Hollioake has morphed into a cage fighter and wants to show off his new boxing skills against Carlos Spencer at Fighting Chance Dubai, writes Paul Radley.

England cricketer Adam Hollioake, shown here lifting weights in 2003, will make his return to the UAE this weekend for a good cause. Matt Dunham / Reuters
England cricketer Adam Hollioake, shown here lifting weights in 2003, will make his return to the UAE this weekend for a good cause. Matt Dunham / Reuters

DUBAI // It is a good thing Adam Hollioake is a straight talker. Otherwise, he might be a tough one to fathom.

An England cricket captain turned cage fighter. An honorary life vice president of Surrey County Cricket Club who turned to professional boxing after falling foul of the global financial malaise.

A Melbourne-born resident of Australia representing the northern hemisphere in a Fighting Chance Dubai boxing bout against the south on Friday. Here is a riddle wrapped in an enigma.

This weekend, he will step into the ring at Dubai Sports City to take on Carlos Spencer, the former All Black fly-half who is such an adept boxer that none of his former counterparts would take the fight.

After retiring from cricket, Hollioake only took up boxing initially as a way to shift some weight after breaking his ankle while playing indoor five-a-side football.

Yet you would struggle to detect any fear ahead of this weekend's headline act at Fighting Chance Dubai.

"I'm really looking forward to it," said Hollioake, 41, who is scheduled to arrive in Dubai on Monday.

"I know [Spencer] is a big strong boy, there is no doubt about that. If it was a beauty competition, he would definitely beat me.

"He has got the body, hasn't he? But I'm a pretty tough dude myself, so we'll just have to see what happens."

The UAE already holds happy sporting memories for Hollioake. Sixteen years ago, he led England to a rare victory in a one-day international competition in Sharjah.

He surely cannot have imagined he would one day be returning as a boxer.

It is still sport, but his new life in boxing and mixed martial arts differs markedly.

The term leg break, for example, means something rather different now. It is a little more basic than deciphering Shane Warne's box of tricks, and could be considerably more painful.

That said, Hollioake insists there are more similarities than you might expect between leading out a cricket team at Lord's, for example, and stepping into a cage for a brawl.

"You have to deal with nerves, you have to deal with the crowd," he said. "You have to deal with the voices in your head, self doubt, being scared of what is going to happen.

"Once you are actually out there doing it, whether it be cricket, boxing or MMA, it is all about remaining as calm as you can to allow you to perform your skills.

"Obviously, there is more of a chance of getting physically hurt in a boxing fight.

"But it is the same as trying to take the nerves out of a game of cricket. Physical fear is just another thing you need to overcome."

The bout between Hollioake and Spencer is the main event on a card that also involves a variety of former rugby players fighting, such as Shane Williams, Brian Lima and Shane Byrne.

"Carlos sees the fight as a massive challenge because he knows he is fighting a bona fide fighter and he needs to step up," said John Mamea-Wilson, the organiser of Fighting Chance Dubai.

"They will both come forward. If it goes to points, Carlos will need the fight of his life, but either one of them could knock the other one out."

What Fighting Chance Dubai

When 7.30pm, Friday

Where Dubai Sports City

Tickets For more info, email fightingchancedubai@gmail.com

pradley@thenational.ae

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