x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Fighting Chance Dubai will feature athletes stepping into the ring for a good cause

The bout between English cricketer Adam Hollioake and New Zealand rugby player Carlos Spencer will headline Fighting Chance Dubai, a boxing fund-raiser that will benefit injured triathlete Richard Holland, writes Ali Khaled.

Former New Zealand rugby player Carlos Spencer, left, will be one of 12 athletes who will step into the ring for Fighting Chance Dubai, a boxing fund-raiser to benefit a Dubai-based injured triathlete. Sandra Mu / Getty Images
Former New Zealand rugby player Carlos Spencer, left, will be one of 12 athletes who will step into the ring for Fighting Chance Dubai, a boxing fund-raiser to benefit a Dubai-based injured triathlete. Sandra Mu / Getty Images

Few sports are as physically demanding as rugby. Still, it's unlikely that the thought of getting hurt is something that keeps some of the world's toughest athletes up at night.

For a group of ex-professionals, however, the punching, stomping and, occasionally, biting will not have prepared them for the latest challenge in their long and distinguished careers stepping into a boxing ring with other former rugby players. And one cricketer.

On Friday night, Dubai Sports City will host a fight night with a difference. Twelve international stars, equally split from the northern and southern hemispheres, will face each other in six bouts, with a lot more at stake than just pride or simple geographical bragging rights.

Welcome to Fighting Chance Dubai. It's North v South; let's get ready to rumble.

But behind the glitz of the event, is a serious campaign born out of a tragic accident that took place in Dubai last year. The players, led by the headlining quartet of Shane Williams of Wales, Bolla Conradie of South Africa, Adam Hollioake of England and Carlos Spencer of New Zealand, will be fighting in an effort to raise awareness and money for the Back On Your Bike charity (backonyourbike.com).

The fund was set up after Dubai-based South African triathlete Richard Holland was severely injured after being hit by a car in Dubai last October, while cycling from his home to the Al Qudra Road cycle track.

Holland, 30, who was training for the Laguna Phuket Ironman 70.3, was left with severe brain damage, and the "locked-in syndrome" he continues to experience means he is unable to move or communicate. Fighting Chance Dubai is the latest event that his family has organised in an effort to improve his quality of life.

There have been other fundraising campaigns for Holland. The Abu Dhabi International Triathlon in March, for one, saw a group of 20 of his friends and colleagues take part while wearing orange wigs, visors and T-shirts with the message "Back on Your Bike, People".

Friday's event, however, promises to be the most high-profile yet. The athletes-turned-boxers are certainly taking it seriously and have been participating in dedicated training programmes for the last 14 weeks.

The main event will see the lone cricketer in the ranks, Hollioake, face the task of getting in the ring with Spencer, a former All Blacks captain who is no stranger to boxing. Hollioake says he is fit and ready for the challenge.

"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," he said.

It promises to be a lively affair, with long-standing rivalries being resurrected for one night. And all for a good cause.

akhaled@thenational.ae

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