The lead-up to any professional boxing match is always intense; several weeks of punishing training camps including daily sparring sessions can take its toll.
For Nadim Salloum, Lebanon's first professional boxer, the preparation for his fight on Friday, when he faces Canadian Kenny Chery, carries an added weight of expectation and excitement.
The fight, at super middleweight, will be his first since signing with prominent US boxing manager Adam Glenn, the son of the legendary New York trainer Jimmy Glenn, who worked with heavyweight great Floyd Patterson and trained numerous others.
“I want a knockout. That's the goal," Salloum told The National ahead of Friday's fight in New York. "I want a knockout with the right hand, my injured wrist. That's what we're working on."
The wrist injury Salloum refers to came in his last fight just under four months ago in Louisville, Kentucky, the birthplace of his childhood hero, Muhammad Ali.
Salloum’s aggressive style saw him win a six-round bout against Ashton Sykes by unanimous decision. The injury, he says, prevented him from delivering a knockout in front of a passionate crowd of his supporters, many of whom were Lebanese diaspora.
It was the 27-year-old's fourth straight win and his performance was enough to convince Glenn to sign Salloum to his Times Square Boxing promotion.
“Deep inside, I knew it was going to happen. I deserve a good manager, and I am a good boxer,” says Salloum. “We are going to both be winners through this.”
Salloum's confidence is unwavering. However, the tough years of trying to break into the sport in the US have given him a shrewd understanding of how boxing works.
“Boxing is a business and you have to promote yourself,” he says, “I want to fight all over the world, and we have fans - Lebanese expats everywhere - we have to tap into that.”
At a time when Lebanon is facing perhaps its darkest days, Salloum’s unconventional route into boxing is inspiring fans both at and abroad.
After winning his first national championships as a 17-year-old, Salloum's career stagnated. He decided that if he really wanted to pursue his dreams of becoming a world champion, he would have to leave Lebanon.
“Nobody knew how to do it in Lebanon,” remembers Salloum, “I was a good fighter, but was a long way short of being at a professional level. Something needed to change.”
In 2015, Salloum, age 21, flew to the US to spend a month networking and training at some of the country’s most renown gyms. He would repeat the cycle for another two years, dropping out of university and selling his car to fund his pursuit.
“When it came to boxing I was willing to sacrifice everything. I was determined to make it happen.”
In 2017, the sacrifices started to pay off. Salloum was given his first professional fight, a first for any Lebanese boxer. It was in Tijuana, Mexico against a local opponent in front of a home crowd. Salloum won by a first-round knockout, according to unofficial reports.
Since then, Salloum has continued to fight in Mexico and in the US, always returning back to Lebanon once his money ran out.
Sensing he was on the cusp of greater things, Salloum decided to move to New York to immerse himself completely into the life of being a pro-boxer. For two-and-a-half years he has been living on his friend’s couch as he has developed as a fighter, picking up wins and continued to try and get his name out there.
“Nobody works as hard as I do and nobody sacrificed as much as I did, so I don't think anybody deserves it as much as I do,” Salloum says.
He faces in the 33-year-old Chery a fighter ranked eighth in the super-middle weight class in Canada who is coming off the back of two wins this year.
“I don’t care, I focus on what I have to do,” says Salloum. “I am going to knock him out and move on to the next one.”
To watch the fight go to BXNGTV.COM for details.