By Mikhil Bhat/Doha
With a “milestone” of sorts in sight, Sheikh Fahad bin Khalid al-Thani is excited going into his tenth professional bout in Madrid on Friday.
Qatar’s first professional boxer is 9-0 in his nine-bout career so far, and is looking to get into the double digits with his unbeaten streak.
“I do not think that I am facing any pressure but I am excited,” Sheikh Fahad told Gulf Times.
“My tenth fight is almost like a milestone and I am looking forward to it.”
The 31-year-old had last fought Romanian Dumitru Nicu Manea in their super welterweight bout in Leon, Spain, and won after the latter retired after the third round.
Sheikh Fahad made a winning debut against Hungary’s Bela Sandor in May 2016. He has since beaten a string of Romanians, including Adrian Parlogea (thrice), Gheorghe Ghiompirica (twice), Ionut Bogheanu and Marius Racaru.
This week, however, he will be facing a new opponent.
“When it comes to facing unknown opponents, I think my time in amateur boxing helps a lot, because even there you are not sure about who you will be up against in the next round,” said the boxer, whose last amateur fight was at the Doha Open in 2014. He had won silver in the welterweight category in the tournament after going up against his then sparring partner and the 2006 Asian Games bronze medallist, Huzam Nabah, in the final.
He added: “However, in professional boxing, it is more about focusing on yourself than anything else. Making sure that you are ready. Ensuring you are in the best shape. And that you have given 100 percent in training.”
He plans to fight in 4-6 bouts this calendar year. “The more you are in the ring, the more you fight, the calmer you get. I have been injury free and these bouts will only help me get better,” he said.
He takes heart from the fact that both his Cuban coach Ismael Salas and trainer Franck Bohec are “happy” with his progress.
“There has been a massive leap in terms of my performance between my eighth and the ninth bout, and I hope I only keep improving,” he said.
Sheikh Fahad has one of the best boxing coaches in history in 61-year-old Salas. Salas has worked with 21 world champions across weight categories, including the likes of multiple time two-weight champion David Haye, multiple time three-weight champion Jorge Linares, former unified featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa, and has twice been named as the WBA trainer of the year.
Even as he prepped for a busy year ahead in the ring, Sheikh Fahad had some really interesting experiences off it.
He has always maintained that he wants to inspire young boxers in Qatar, and that they have a role model to look up to in the country, something that he didn’t have. And part of that dream is to also organise a pro card in Qatar.
For starters, however, he said, “I have had many Qatari youngsters who have been looking for guidance. They came by the gym and I even trained with them. I am more than happy to help them and guide them.”
While in the UK, he met with the WBA (Super) super-middleweight champion Callum Smith. The Liverpool boxer also lifted the Muhammad Ali Trophy last year, by winning the World Boxing Super Series.
“It’s always nice to meet with fellow professional boxers and see their process. I also happened to meet many other young boxers who are coming through that gym,” he said.
“I had an interesting experience in one of the training gyms in the UK, where I came face to face with wheelchair boxing. I met these athletes and spoke to them and their process, and it was really enlightening to see how they train and prepare.”
For now, over to Madrid.
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