UAE Boxing Federation president Anas Al Otaiba has said November's world title bout between Dmitry Bivol and Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez will help put Abu Dhabi on the world fight map.
The light heavyweight clash between WBA champion Bivol and Ramirez on November 7 at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island will add to the expanding list of combat sports such as mixed martial arts, jiu-jitsu, muaythai and kick boxing to make a lasting impression in the UAE.
“This fight for the light world title indeed is a huge advertisement to put Abu Dhabi on the boxing world map,” Al Otaiba told The National.
“Saudi Arabia took the lead by staging two world heavyweight title contests and the Bivol-Ramirez fight will further strengthen the sport’s presence in the region.”
The kingdom hosted the Oleksandr Usyk's win over Anthony Joshua in their rematch last month, while the Briton avenged his defeat against Andy Ruiz Jr in 2019.
“We aren’t involved in professional boxing but develop the sport at the amateur level by organising competitions which obviously is a platform for the boxers to turn professionals,” Al Otaiba said.
“We may not be involved in the staging of the title fight but we believe it’s an important step forward in many ways to create awareness of the sport, particularly among the locals.”
Meanwhile, the UAE federation broke new ground by signing a deal with their Serbian counterparts that will see reciprocal competitions between the national teams of the two countries, as well as various exchange programmes.
“This is the first ever MoU [memorandum of understanding] we have signed with any country and our work begins immediately with the first high performance training for the UAE team schedule for November,” Nenad Borovcanin, president of the Serbian Boxing Federation said.
“We are excited about this partnership and have a lot of plans to improve the level of boxing by organising home and away competitions between the two national teams, exchange programmes as well as training for technical staff.”
Al Otaiba is completing 10 years as the head of the UAE federation and is confident they are on the right path to take amateur boxing in the country to the next level.
“We have grown a lot with the best of our federation’s efforts,” he said of the progress during his time. “It’s not that we don’t have challenges, but we have achieved encouraging results every passing year.”
The UAE’s boxing reached a new level when Hanan Al Zeyoudi created history by becoming the first Emirati female to win a medal [bronze] at the 2021 Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai.
“In the last few years, we have seen a good number of Emirati boxers growing within the federation,” Al Otaiba said.
“We worked very hard to equip them with the technical skills and opportunities for them to compete at international levels.
“We have domestic competitions every month and competitions for the national team to participate in the regional, continental and international championships regularly.”
The signing of the MoU with the Serbian federation, according to Al Otaiba, was another step forward to provide local boxers with more opportunities and elevate their levels by providing more time to work with professional coaches.
Al Otaiba has also made many contributions at the continental level as the head of Asian Boxing for four years, highlighted by the introduction of prize money for amateur boxers, the founding of the Boxing Grand Slam first held in China and the U22 Asian Championships.
“We did as much as possible to build a solid platform for Asian boxing and it was achieved as a team,” he said.
“We established a committee to help national federations that didn’t have the resources to participate at the continental competitions.”
Al Otaiba strongly believes boxing will continue to be enjoyed as an Olympic medal sport.
“There are a lot of martial art sports that are becoming increasingly popular in the region and as well as around the world, but I believe boxing will have its own place in the world of combat sports.”