x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

An action-filled first fight night at Yas

Ahmed Al Ali’s first round was a mess of nerves and painful viewing, by his own admission, but he eventually settled to the extent that by the third round he had won his first pro fight.

Ahmed Al Ali, in white, and Mohammed Abbas trade blows during their boxing match at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Ali won the match. Sammy Dallal / The National
Ahmed Al Ali, in white, and Mohammed Abbas trade blows during their boxing match at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. Ali won the match. Sammy Dallal / The National

ABU DHABI // A first professional fight is as excusable a time as any to be racked by nerves. Ahmed Al Ali’s first round was a mess of nerves and painful viewing, by his own admission, but he eventually settled to the extent that by the third round he had won his first pro fight on Thursday.

Al Ali was the only Emirati fighter on the card of the first pro boxing night in the capital at the Thursday Night Fights at Yas Island. He eventually won by disqualification, his opponent Mohammad Abbas, from Egypt, landing one head-butt too many. The second transgression was a victory of sorts for Al Ali, for by then he had assumed control of a messy fight. “I’m feeling very good right now,” the 26-year-old welterweight said. “I’m not happy with my performance but I am very happy I won. I made my country, my family, my fans very proud and I’m just very happy for that.

“The first round was not easy for me. This was my first fight and a lot of people were talking in the crowd. I didn’t concentrate on what my coach was saying. I was listening to what everyone else was saying. But from the second round, my coach got me into the fight.” Al Ali is probably the only engineer-boxer in the world: he holds a day job with Adnoc, but is hoping, after 10 amateur fights and now a pro one, to turn to boxing full-time. It will not be easy, though he may have a second fight lined up for April.

“It’s really, really hard to make it here. I’ve been boxing for five, six years now and this was my first professional fight,” he said. “We have a problem with promoters in the UAE. We have a lot of great boxers here, but no sponsors, even for someone like my friend Abdul Kabbani,” with whom he trains.

Most of the other fights on the night were of superior quality and the evening came alive with the much-awaited grudge rematch between Dubai residents, the cruiserweights Mohammad Ali Bayat and Kabbani. Bayat had won a heated first encounter back in 2011, on a contentious points decision. Since then the pair had tried but failed to meet again in the ring, though they have happily indulged in some verbal sparring in the meantime, not least at an entertaining pre-fight press conference on Wednesday.

An intense, ferocious fight brought a small but constantly engaged crowd to its most raucous.

Some heavy exchanges took a toll on both, though ultimately Bayat was left standing.

Much the leaner, Bayat’s superior fitness and efficiency of punch began to count; the more Kabbani tried to land a knockout - and missed - the more spent he became.

By the end of the fourth, Kabbani looked gone and it was confirmed as his manager signalled the end of the fight before the start of the fifth.

osamiuddin@thenational.ae

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