Flying the flag for the UAE at next month’s Glory 20 Dubai is Eisa Al Dah, the country’s first professional boxer. Here, he talks to Benita Adesuyan about family, overcoming fear and his return to fighting.
Eisa Al Dah is the first Emirati professional boxer, and is presently still the only one in the country. Al Dah, 36, discovered the sport as a child and became a pro in 2007. Much to the initial dislike of his family, he turned his back on a corporate career to focus on a life in the ring and developing his own brand of gyms, youth training and sports promotions. Now, the boxer is staging a comeback after a three year hiatus, and will be stepping back into the ring at the Glory 20 Dubai on Friday April 3, at the Dubai World Trade Centre. The fight night features 11 fights and sees boxing and kick-boxing share the same bill. The welterweight fighter from Dubai, who has only lost two of his ten fights, will be going round for round with British boxer Kevin Hanks.
How did you get into boxing and which fighters did you admire when you were growing up?
When I was a kid, I liked the sport, because it taught me a lot: how to be patient, to be smart and I liked watching Muhammad Ali. It was very difficult for me in the beginning because it was not a typical sport in the UAE.
You turned pro eight years ago, and there still isn’t another Emirati pro boxer. From your experience, training youngsters at the gym, do you see the sport developing here?
To be honest, it is very difficult. Everybody comes to me and says, “Oh, Eisa, I want to be like you”. If you want to be like me, you have to have patience. Don’t think you will be a champion after a year, I’ve been in this game for years and years but still I’m not a world champion. It just needs a lot of dedication, a lot of experience, a lot of hard training. I sleep in the gym, I wake up every day, train very hard and then I’m back at it again. Only a few people want to do this. I have a lot of kids that I train in the gym and I can see myself in them when I was a kid. I want to improve myself and improve the sport for everybody, so I hope there will be more pros in the future.
What did your family say when you decided you were going to become a professional boxer?
It was very difficult in the beginning. I graduated from college, I had work, and I had a good salary. When I came to my family and said that I would quit, and I wanted to follow my dream they said, “What happened with our son? He’s going crazy.” I left my job, and my father said, “Why are you doing this?” It was very difficult. But I have great parents. My father has passed away, but he was always supporting me. I just wanted to follow my dream, and this is my dream. My family were against my decision because they were worried about me, not just because they didn’t want me to do it. Now, when I show them that my life has changed – I’m a fighter, a business person, I’m supporting my family – they’re so happy.
How do you feel about boxing and kick-boxing sharing one event?
It’s a great opportunity to bring two different combat sports under one platform. It’s great for the audience to have variety. The fans here in the UAE and Middle East love combat sport in general, but not any specific one. We have received a lot of positive feedback from the fans through social media.
What’s your training schedule like in the run-up to fight night?
I’m up at 7am, and I train two to three times a day, I’m training with American coach, Anthony Wilson. He’s a very good trainer, I’ve known him for around ten years now and he has a lot of good fighters.
It’s been three years since your last major fight, how are you feeling about getting back in the ring?
Kevin Hanks is a good fighter. I was watching his fights and he has a lot of power in his punch and I think he will be looking for a knockout. But it’s a good thing that I have the speed. To be honest with you, sometimes I feel very good, and sometimes I feel like I’m afraid, you know? Maybe because it has been three years, but being afraid is good. You have to be afraid or you don’t care.
In your time out of the ring you’ve branched into sports events and running your gyms. What side of your career are you focusing on mainly now?
I’m absolutely focusing more on being a boxer. But in the future, we are hoping to build more events over here in Dubai and work with many Arab fighters.
You’re good friends with Amir Khan and last year you said that if Floyd Mayweather and Amir Khan were to fight, you’d give Mayweather your gym if he could beat Khan. Is that offer still on the table?
Yes it is. They are both are my favourite fighters. Floyd is a great fighter but Amir is also a great boxer and also one of my close friends. If he puts something in his mind, he will do it. Floyd is a very good fighter, but I think Amir would beat him with the speed.
From Dhs250. Glory 20 Dubai, Friday April 3, 6.30pm. Dubai World Trade Centre, Downtown Dubai www.gloryworldseries.com.
Where to try kick-boxing in Dubai
Free trial for first timers. Dhs699 per month for members.
Dhs160 per class for non-members. Sun and Tue, 7pm-8pm. Umm Suqeim Road, Al Quoz 3, www.whgym.com (04 323 2323).
Dhs600 per month.
Dhs80 per class for non-members. Ladies only Mon, Wed, 5pm-6pm. Mixed Sun, Tue, Thu, 6pm-7.30pm. Shatha Tower, Dubai Media City, www.multiclub.ae (04 452 3388).