After two decades of hard work, support from his family and what he calls a bit of God’s grace, Fahad Khalid Al Thani has won his first professional match in Croatia.
The match took place two weeks ago, with Al Thani knocking his opponent out in the first round, officially making him Qatar’s first pro boxer.
Speaking to Doha News in a recent interview, the 28-year old said the bout was a great opportunity and he was honored to represent his country:
“They were very happy (in Croatia) to have the first Qatari professional (boxer) fight there. For me, it was a great experience fighting in Europe – (it) was a place i always dreamed of fighting in…so many great champions come (from there).”
But Al Thani added that he didn’t spend too long celebrating the win, because he now feels more pressure to rack up further victories by training even harder.
“I have a long way to go, I’m still at the beginning of my journey,” he said.
Al Thani was expected to make his professional debut in London’s O2 arena tomorrow, but said that due to a shoulder injury during training, doctors have said that he cannot compete and will need two weeks to recover.
Working up to it
Al Thani said he fell in love with boxing when he was eight years old thanks to his mother.
“When i was young, my mother used to always talk about Muhammad Ali and his fights with (Joe) Frazier and how all the houses in Doha would tune in to watch Mohammad Ali whenever he fought,’’ Al Thani said.
Later in the ’90s, Al Thani became a fan of former world boxing champion “Prince” Naseem Hamed and Mike Tyson and closely watched their fights.
When he turned 18, he started seriously training as a boxer and traveled to England to study at the American Intercontinental University in London.
There, he met his current coach Franck Bohec, who trained him and prepared him for to be part of Qatar’s national team, which he joined in 2009.
Before his big fight in Croatia, Al Thani met Ismail Antonio Sallas, who he describes as the “professor of boxing.” Sallas trained Al Thani for three months in Las Vegas to help him transition to the pros, with the help of the rest of Al Thani’s team.
But there were challenges.
For example, many in his community didn’t see the point of him pursuing a professional career, and with no local role models, the young Qatari said he had to motivate himself and carve his own path.
However, Al Thani added that he drew strength from his family, who has always encouraged him to follow his dreams – especially his mother.
“My mother is the first person to really believe in me and encourage me to do this,” he said. “At the beginning I used to not like telling her that i was going to fight, but now I actually get more confidence from her prayers.”
Though his relatives worry about him getting injured or hurt during a fight, they find comfort in knowing that he trains and prepares well ahead of each bout, he said.
In the ring
Al Thani has participated in around 28 amateur games, and has taken plenty of punches in the ring.
But according to him, getting hit is not as bad as it looks.
“You don’t feel anything…you feel the pain after the (fight ends),” he said, explaining that the adrenaline is so high, that boxers just move on after taking a blow.
He added that the kind of punches that knock boxers out are usually the ones they don’t see coming, because they’re so quick and sudden.
“I’ve been down many times on the ring, but i know how to handle myself, recover and get up and then win the fight,” he said.
Like many athletes, Al Thani believes that only 10 percent of winning depends on physical training, while 90 percent depends on mental strength.
He said he mentally prepares before every fight by staying positive and telling himself that losing is not an option. He also tries to stay calm and focused and listen to his coach’s instructions.
“The calmer I am, the more reflexes I have, the more speed (and) stamina I have,” he said.
Al Thani even includes his opponent in his prayers before every fight:
“I want to win, but my intention is never to (severely) hurt my opponent,” he said.
The pro boxer said he hopes to compete for an international title in the next two years, get ranked and then challenge any champion out there.
But for now, he plans to take it “one fight at a time.”
And when asked what advice he would give aspiring pro athletes, Al Thani said the most important things are to respect the sport they choose and to keep the faith:
“They are going to have bad days (and) they’re going to have good days, but the most important thing is to keep their focus on the plan and succeed in whatever they do,’’ he said.