x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Fight organisers in UAE warned to beware of hustlers

Promoter says the UAE must be aware of dishonest deal-breakers as it looks to promote tourism through sport, writes Gary Meenaghan.

Dubai has, in recent years, found itself being compared to Las Vegas. But when the UAE's first professional fighter made his debut on March 24, 2007, the hope was that the Emirates could grow into a boxing hub to rival the American city.

Close to three years on and the only noteworthy professional boxing event to take place since Eisa Aldah entered the ring was an incredibly one-sided fight featuring former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer and American also-ran Shelby Gross. It lasted 32 seconds.

More recently, in January of this year, it was announced Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield would meet at Zayed Sports City to headline a night of boxing. October 31 was touted as fight night, but the event has yet to happen.

Bob Arum, who has spent 43 years promoting fights involving the likes of Muhammad Ali, Oscar de la Hoya and Manny Pacquiao, said the UAE must be aware of dishonest deal-breakers as it looks to promote tourism through sport.

"You see, whether it's Abu Dhabi or Dubai, the problem is there are a lot of hustlers who are happy to try to get involved and sell goods to the people in those places," said Arum, who attended the opening party of the Atlantis Hotel – Palm Jumeirah last year.

"They then come [to the United States] and they want a big cut and it all goes downhill," he added.

"I know the people in Dubai because my friend [Sol Kerzner] built and operates the Atlantis. Those are the kind of people I would deal with: guys like Sultan [bin Sulayem] – they are good people, very smart people. But I am not just going to waste my time speaking with fringe people."

gmeenaghan@thenational.ae

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