For the first time in his distinguished career, Emirati boxer Sultan Al Nuaimi found himself seated on the canvas, marginally dazed and confused, as he looked up at the smallish but forbidding figure of his would-be assassin.
Tanzanian Jemsi Kibazange had every reason to be full of himself because he had just dealt the UAE’s best super flyweight his first knockdown.
It was a humbling experience for Al Nuaimi, although it only lasted a few seconds, eight to be precise, as the referee performed the mandatory standing eight count.
As his mentor and boxing promoter Ahmed Al Siddiqi rushed to his side of the ring and urged him to stay focused and do what he came to do, Al Nuaimi brushed his gloves on the side of his silken shorts and proceeded to take the fight to his unsuspecting opponent.
Using all the skills he had mastered at Dubai’s Round 10 Gym in Al Quoz, he landed precision jabs to the head and combinations to Kibazange’s body.
Al Nuaimi continued to dominate the ten-round contest, the main event at Ahmed Siddiqi’s Rising Stars of Arabia fight night at the Mubadala Arena in Abu Dhabi, before securing a unanimous decision victory.
“Boxing teaches you a lot, but mostly never to give up,” he told Khaleej Times after a sparring session at Round 10, where he spends most of his time soaking in the fight atmosphere and bettering his skills.
“In the ring there is no place to hide – you survive or perish.
“The last fight woke me up, and I have promised myself never to be knocked down again. These things happen, but only when you’re careless, not focused,” said Al Nuaimi.
“It wasn’t my best fight as I was coming back from injury, and I was not fully prepared. But look, no excuses. I took a punch that taught me a lot, but in the end, I got the job done.
“I just want to be more relentless, even more skilful and to get better and better,” he said.
To be a champion a sportsman must embody his art if he aspires to reach the pinnacle. Because boxing can sometimes be surreal, as Al Nuaimi understands. It is crucial to set tangible goals and not get ahead of oneself.
“I want to test myself against the best fighters, but I leave it to Ahmed (Siddiqi) to decide who I fight next. I trust him completely. He has helped me build my career.”
Most of the conventional praise has seemed to elude Al Nuaimi, who has single-handedly been a role model for Emirati and Arab fighters.
To put it simply, he is a born boxer-puncher, not the journeyman that many fighters become at the mid-point in their careers.
Al Nuaimi is preparing to represent the UAE at the Asian Games (September 23-October in China, provided the cut that he suffered from a head-butt by Kibazange heals.
“It needed to be stitched up but it doesn’t worry me at all,” he said. “Hopefully, I pass the medical examination in China and be allowed to compete for my country and yes, win a medal.”
Before the conversation ended Al Nuaimi paused to reflect on the Rising Stars of Arabia boxing series, which will return in November for the second instalment as it becomes a permanent fixture on the UAE boxing scene.
“Rising Stars is a great concept and a dream event for Arab fighters,” he said. “Ahmed has created something out of knighting and provided Arab fighters with a platform to do their thing.
“He is one hundred percent focused on growing the event, and with the vision and passion that he has, it’s only going to grow.
“It’s the best thing that could have happened to our sport.”
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