Emirati Fahad Al Bloushi ‘on cloud nine’ after Champion Series victory in Abu Dhabi

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Emirati Fahad Al Bloushi said he was “on cloud nine” after opening the inaugural “Champion Series” in Abu Dhabi with victory – and immediately set sights on creating more history.

The Dubai-born boxer, 26, dominated Georgian Irakli Shariashvili in the opening bout at Etihad Arena on Saturday night, taking the unanimous decision 60-54, 59-55, 59-55. The win lifted Al Bloushi’s record to 11-1.

“I feel great, honestly,” Al Bloushi said. “This is a whole surreal feeling. A gym fight is one thing, but in fight like this, Etihad Arena, one of the biggest stages, where you have had big names like [UFC star] Khabib [Nurmagomedov], NBA, here… I feel like a top-level athlete right now. It feels great. I’m on cloud nine.”

Al Bloushi, who emerged to a vociferous support despite being so early in the evening, added: “There were a lot more [fans] than I expected. I was expecting it to be quiet. But as soon as I walked out I was like, ‘Yo, this is a home crowd; this is people that’s coming to watch boxing’.

“I’m really proud to be a part of an event where people are coming to support. I didn’t expect a lot of people to shout my name, but then they all started, ‘Fahad, Fahad, Fahad’. In my head I’m like, ‘Alright, now is the time to switch that gear, put on a performance, show the world, show the city, show the country that Fahad Al Bloushi is right here, put on a show’. I feel great. I can’t explain it.”

Al Bloushi, who was initially slated to rematch Giorgi Gotchoshvili – the Georgian inflicted the only defeat of his career, in 2019 – rated his performance six out of 10.

“It was a good fight, not the perfect fight,” the super-featherweight said. “I’m still going to learn from here. It’s always a learning curve from what I’m going to do. Last fight taught me a lot; this fight another.

“I made my mum proud, my dad proud, the whole country proud. And putting that statement to the whole country means a lot to me. Because this is my hometown, it gave me everything. And I’m trying to give the same thing back, the same ambition and dreams that the country wants.

“For the whole UAE, all seven emirates. I’m not leaving, not one bit. If I can fight in all seven emirates I’ll do it.”

Saturday’s event represented the first in the “Champion Series”, the multi-year agreement announced this summer between the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and renowned promotion Matchroom Boxing.

On his next move within the sport, Al Bloushi said: “I really hope I can get the better fights. I really want to become No 1 in the Middle East; small goals first and then we can proceed to the big ones.

“I want to become the first Emirati to have the Middle East title in my weight class. So I can put the country on the map as well, and I can inspire a lot of other kids. Because I want to learn how to defend themselves.”

Later on Saturday, Sultan Al Nuaimi made it two for two for the UAE, when the Emirati stopped Indian Sohaib Haque in the seventh and penultimate round.

The win, sealed by a sharp right hook to the body, extended the unbeaten Al Nuaimi’s record to 9-0.

“I feel good, I’m happy with my performance,” the super-flyweight said. “It’s just the first round, I think I broke my thumb, or [damaged] a ligament, I just had it checked.

“Just knowing this is the biggest fight in UAE’s history and you performed a really good performance, that’s such an honour to be a part of it.

“And to show the world that there are some local-based fighters that can perform on a high level. We’re just trying to attract people into this sport, because some other people are focusing on other sports and are just ignoring boxing. When it’s growing really big all over the world.

“We just want to attract more local guys into this sport. This is just the beginning.”

In the night’s other bout involving an Emirati, Khorfakkan lightweight Majid Al Naqbi suffered the first defeat of his pro career, losing to Filipino John Lawrence Ordonio by unanimous decision.

Al Naqbi, who came into the contest 7-0, was outworked by his opponent during the four rounds, with the judges scoring the clash 40-36, 40-36, 39-37.

“The opponent was tough, and the game plan wasn’t the same as I wanted to do. Sometimes things don’t work out for me. This is my first loss and I’ll learn from it,” said Al Naqbi.

“The way to success is hard. And if you don’t taste failure, you’ll never understand what success truly looks like.

“But I don’t have to give excuses. I’m accepting my loss as a man, I’ll take it. But it is what it is. I believe in God and I believe in my destiny.”

On the support he received on Saturday, Al Naqbi added: “It was something people look at you like pride of the country. We, as Arabs, even when you fail, people will be emotional with you and will support you anyway, because they know the truth, who you are, what you’re going through.

“A hundred per cent there’s a fire inside me to come back in a different weight division, and maybe I’ll take a rematch with the guy in future.”

Updated: November 05, 2022, 9:10 PM