Majid Al Naqbi aims to use this weekend’s “historical” Champion Series event in Abu Dhabi as a platform to kick-start his quest towards competing with the world’s best.
The Emirati, 25, is one of three UAE boxers on the undercard for Saturday’s event at Etihad Arena, which is headlined by the WBA light-heavyweight title clash between champion Dmitry Bivol and No 1-ranked challenger Gilberto Ramirez.
The fight night, which features three championship bouts in all, represents the inaugural event of the Champion Series, the recently announced partnership between the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi and Matchroom Boxing.
The unbeaten Al Naqbi, the UAE’s second professional boxer, takes on Filipino John Lawrence Ordonio in a six-round contest. He competes on the night alongside compatriots Sultan Al Nuaimi and Fahad Al Bloushi.
“It’s historical,” Al Naqbi told The National. “It’s historical especially for us as locals because people start to realise about, start really seeing, boxing right now.
“When we started in the country with the UFC it took a while to catch on, but after the second or third time it came here people started loving the sport. Maybe that’s the same right now for boxing.
“Of course, for the world of boxing Saturday is already something big. But I think after this event, or the second or third of the new partnership, people will start coming to us, watching us and supporting us.
“And this is like a beginning for me towards the titles, because it’s a world title fight and I’m fighting on the undercard. This is huge for anybody. Honestly, everyone would kill himself to have this opportunity in boxing.”
Born in Khorfakkan, Al Naqi took up boxing aged 18 having transitioned from kick-boxing. After moving to Dubai, he represented the UAE national team at amateur level, participating in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia and then again at last year’s Asian Amateur Boxing Championships on home soil.
Al Naqbi contested his first professional bout in 2019 and has since registered seven wins from seven fights at super-lightweight, with four victories coming by knockout.
What is more, he has previous experience of competing at a high-profile event: in 2019, he fought on the undercard to Anthony Joshua versus Andy Ruiz Jr in Diriyah, Saudi Arabia. There, he defeated Georgia’s Ilia Beruashvili by third-round TKO.
Al Naqbi, who counts among his boxing inspirations Sugar Ray Robinson, Sugar Ray Leonard and – in particular – Roberto Duran, now fights out of Kane’s Boxing Academy in Abu Dhabi.
“Thank God I got this chance, this opportunity,” he said. “To fight on Bivol-Ramirez is a big fight, a big opportunity for me and my country.
“As a UAE boxing champion, it means a lot to me. I’m the second professional boxer in the country’s history, been in the game seven years, and happy to be on this platform.
“It will pay off, of course, on November 5. I can't wait for it.”
Al Naqbi comes into Saturday’s bout off the back of a decision win against Kenya’s Said Baguani in June. In contrast, Ordonio has suffered two consecutive defeats, in April and last time out, in August. His pro record reads 7-4-1 (4 KOs).
“Of course, I have to give a really amazing performance,” Al Naqbi said. “I had a great camp; I'm really sharp, really strong, really ready. I believe in my strength and power, I believe in my skills and the IQ I have in boxing.
“I believe my opponent will see something special about me as a Middle Eastern fighter, because I don't think he’s seen someone from the UAE, an Arab guy who came from nothing about boxing and does something big in boxing.
“So I think I'll make something amazing, get a knockout, maybe in round four. I believe that.”
On Ordonio, Al Naqbi said: “All I know is he’s a slugger, he can fight. This kind of person you have to box; I have to box and be smart in the ring.
“We don't underestimate anyone, but this is boxing, this is confidence, I believe in myself. And, for sure, I have to go for the knockout if I get the chance in four rounds.
“But if not, I believe I knock him out anyway. That's it.”
Asked about his future aspirations, Al Naqbi added: “I'm looking forward to representing my country in the top 10 in the world, to be top 10, top five, top one in the world in my division. Of course, it’s a long ride, it’s a big dream to make it true, but I'm living the dream, man.
“I’ve seen that God gave me everything it takes to be world champion. I believe it's about time, it's about the people who get you there. And, here in Kane’s Academy, they do a great job to sponsor me and give me the chance to fight on big platforms.
“I believe you need a good people around you, that way they get you to the top. And, of course, I want to be world champion, earning the belts, WBC, WBO, WBA, all the belts. You have to be greedy in this sport.”