Qatar's first pro boxer dreams of big fight at Khalifa International Stadium
As Qatar's first professional boxer, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani knows what it means to push boundaries and dream big. After winning his second fight in Oviedo, Spain, the 28-year-old Qatari Super Lightweight boxer has a perfect 2-0 record in his ground-breaking career following an amateur run which saw him get some 40 fights under his belt. Now the talented boxer nicknamed the 'Panther' says he is dreaming big – of a fight in front of his home fans at a major venue in the country.
"It was a very proud achievement for me to become my country's first professional boxer, and then also to win my second fight in a row in Spain recently. Now my ambition is to arrange a fight this year in front of my home fans, at a major venue in Qatar. If I keep training hard and winning my fights, I dream of one day fighting in and filling a major stadium like Khalifa International Stadium in Doha," Sheikh Fahad Al Thani told www.sc.qa in an exclusive interview.
"It is an honour to be representing my country, which is making such a big commitment to becoming known as a nation of sporting events and outstanding athletes like our high-jump Olympic medallist Mutaz Barshim. In 2022 we will host the FIFA World Cup as the first Arab nation in history, and all of those of my generation and others in Qatar have the privilege of making their contribution to this outstanding sporting development."
Ahead of his recent fight in Oviedo, Spain, a surprising reference to football helped to get the local fans on the side of the man who was once a junior team goalkeeper before switching to the boxing gloves.
"It was an idea the promoter had, to get me to put on the shirt of the local football team, Real Oviedo, as I walked up to the ring. The crowd reacted in fantastic fashion. In general I have a big passion for football and support the Qatari national team whenever they play. In Europe, I love watching Manchester United play, and of course the legendary Brazil team of 2002 was one I will never forget, with Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos. A lot of boxing fights are also held in football venues, so anything is possible in the future."
Just ten years after taking up boxing, the Qatari fighter says daily training and a relentless attention to detail have taken him to the place where he is, and he points to the sporting nation around him as the source of inspiration behind his journey.
"The sporting ambitions of Qatar have allowed me to fulfil my dreams of becoming a professional boxer. I have studied in great depth the videos and photos of the legendary Muhammed Ali when he fought here in Doha in 1973. He is a great source of inspiration to me, and I believe that the whole of the Middle East and the Arab world is looking for a role model to inspire a young generation of boxers. We have plenty of talented youngsters who are taking up the sport, and I think that when they see my fights they too will be inspired to dream big."
The sporting journey of Qatar's first professional boxer has not been a straight-forward one, and he is refreshingly upbeat about the challenges both behind and in front of him.
"It was a tough decision for me to turn professional, and I thought about it well. The step up has been to an entirely different level of competitiveness, and I have adapted my training accordingly. But when you step into the ring you realise that being first at something doesn't matter, only the fight at hand does. In the first fight I took an early hit and went down on the floor. But I got back up, shook myself off, and focussed on how I could win the fight. Shortly after that I landed the winning punch, and it just confirmed to me that I am on the right track."
With two straight knock-out wins under the belt in his promising professional career, Sheikh Fahad Al Thani has set his sights on bringing boxing firmly into the focus in Qatar and the Middle East region.
"For me the objective is to raise awareness locally and get more youngsters involved in the sport which I love. I want to keep winning my fights, and to focus on keeping my performance as good as it can be. And of course the ideal setting for me would be to have a fight right here, in front of my home fans."