Herring-Frampton promoters target two more world-title fights in Dubai to add to UAE's boxing legacy

D4G Promotions' Ahmed A Seddiqi does not want to slow down after WBO super-featherweight clash

Dubai, United Arab Emirates - Donnie Nietes (Philippines) and  Pablo Corillo (Colombia) at their weigh-in at Leva Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road.  Leslie Pableo for The National for Amith Pasella's story

D4G Promotions, the company who brought Saturday’s high-profile “Legacy” boxing event to Dubai, is targeting at least another two world-title fights for the emirate this year.

The weekend's event, staged at Caesars Palace Bluewaters, was billed as the biggest night of boxing to be held in the UAE, with Jamel Herring's WBO super-featherweight clash against Carl Frampton the headline. Herring stopped the former two-division world champion in the sixth round to retain his belt.

The night, held in front of a limited crowd because of Covid-19 protocols, also featured wins for fast-rising American Keyshawn Davis and Filipino four-weight world champion Donnie Nietes, while Emirati Fahad Al Bloushi and Dubai-based Indian Faizan Anwar also fought on the undercard. The event was broadcast on ESPN+ in the United States and Channel 5 in the UK and Ireland.

D4G Promotions promoter Ahmed A Seddiqi, who has been involved in boxing in the UAE for almost a decade, said his company is seeking to put on another world title fight this summer and then one at the end of the year, with possibility another to come, too.

"The plan is to keep on going on, because now we've started we can never stop," Seddiqi told The National. "Because if we stop then the sport or whatever we've worked on in the past decade is going to go to waste. So we have to keep moving forward, bring on more world title fights.

“We plan to bring at least three to Dubai this year itself [including Saturday’s event]. Of course, I’m not talking ‘super fights’, Canelo [Alvarez] or Tyson Fury, because that’s a very high cost. But eventually we will reach there, once we see the momentum, once the government sees the impact boxing has on the city, then we hope the support comes from the higher government levels to bring such events.

“But for us, in terms of continuity and keeping up the momentum, we’re not stopping. Nothing is going to keep us from that. We’ll keep getting similar-level fights or even better, and go on to build a proper fan base in the country. That’s the target. Because at the moment people are still not used to boxing, they’re just used to the high, high-level fights. But here we want to grow it from the grassroots."

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Frampton loses to Herring in Dubai

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Keen also to promote both local and locally based boxers, D4G Promotions have organised a number of events since their first live televised professional fight at Emirates Golf Club in April 2019. Since then, they have organised a fight night in Kazakhstan and four “Rotunda Rumble” events, which also were staged at Caesars Palace. The most recent was last October.

Seddiqi said he was “very close” to "Legacy" taking place at the Coca-Cola Arena, and that the desire exists to stage shows there later this year, public health guidelines permitting.

“Depending on the regulations, we are ready to have it in the big arenas,” he said. “And we’re very confident that it doesn’t need to be a ‘super fight’ for us to fill an arena. The proper exposure, the proper support from government entities, will make that happen. And I believe if we get a, for example, Nietes fighting at the Coca-Cola Arena, we could easily fill it, with the proper price point.

“He’s a Filipino legend and appeals to a huge community here. As you saw on the card, since Day 1 I’ve always liked to have multinational fighters to cater to as many nationalities as we can. Dubai has more than 200 nationalities. It would be a big deal to have him fight here for a world title and continue his legacy – not only for the Filipino community.

“And then we have to sit with promoters to discuss what other fights make sense here. Because those world-title fights that we’re planning, we want to bring fighters that attract people to come watch them from abroad. The focus is to bring fighters to attract their fan base to travel and come to Dubai to see this marvellous city. We need to give back to our city as well.”

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Nietes is a Filipino legend and appeals to a huge community here

Seddiqi said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Saudi Arabia seals a deal to host this summer's much-anticipated world heavyweight unification bout between Anthony Joshua and Fury, saying he would welcome the impact of such an event on boxing in the region overall.

Seddiqi said he believes the greatest obstacle for such bouts taking place in Dubai, or the UAE, has always typically come down to the substantial financials involved.

“When it comes to ‘super fights’ it’s the big site fees that need to be paid,” he said. “We’ve already spoken in the past about some big fights that I don’t want to mention, and we had very close negotiations, but because of these restrictions things fell off. We want it to happen, just not as a big-money event but as a successful business plan. It’s difficult to recover money from the ‘super fights’ but anything that comes back to the city of country is a plus. Because the exposure that ‘super fights’ can bring to the city is still not appreciated right now.

“But we’re not focusing on those ‘super fights’; if they come, we’re more than happy to see them in the country, no matter if it’s Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, wherever – at the end of the day it’s one country.

“Our focus, if you want to ask me, is to build a proper ecosystem. We want fans to come to smaller events as well, to enjoy them. We’ve been working on this for years and more people are getting into it, so that means we’re going in the positive direction.

“Boxing is everything to me and to see just one event and then full stop, that doesn’t make sense. That means I’m not doing my job correctly. So for us, yes ‘super fights’ are important – having Joshua-[Andy] Ruiz 2 in Saudi [in December 2019] was good for us too, because people know that something is happening in the region. The country doesn’t matter because we’re all one.

"If it works there, it supports here. If it supports here, it’s going to attract boxers from that country to come. As I said, it’s a proper ecosystem we’re working on.”

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