DUBAI: The Clash On The Dunes title fight between professional boxers Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua on December 7 could inspire the Kingdom’s growing number of home-grown athletes to reach for their dreams.
That is the belief of Nettles Nasser, a professional trainer working with aspiring boxers in Jeddah, who said the sport is undergoing a renaissance in Saudi Arabia with the champions going toe-to-toe at the Diriyah Arena.
The Palestinian-American trainer and his team at the JKO boxing academy is currently helping up-and-coming boxers from Saudi and across the Middle East.
“This is historic. Who would have ever thought that this fight would happen here in Saudi Arabia? It is inspiring for the youth and it’s inspiring for me, we are talking about the Heavyweight Championship of the World … in the Kingdom,” Nettles said.
“Right now, Madison Square Garden in New York is considered the home of boxing, but now Saudi Arabia could be a challenger. It really is amazing. I’ve been here three years and I never thought we’d see something anything on this scale.”
Nettles added last year has been transformative for boxing in the Kingdom, a change that began In September last year when Callum Smith defeated George Groves in the World Boxing Super Series super-middleweight final. It was the first major boxing match to be staged by the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia, the host of the Clash On The Dunes.
“The atmosphere in the boxing gyms now is like night and day,” said Nettles. “When I first came here boxing was in the dark, you could barely here a noise when people were working the bags. Now people are in the gyms and they are sparring with belief, with authority, with passion you can tell they believe they can get somewhere and achieve something.
“When they had Muhammad Ali Trophy last year we had legends like ‘Prince’ Naseem Hamed and Evander Holyfield here, the crowd were going crazy running around and taking pictures with them. And now we have the World Champion fight an Andy Ruiz and Anthony Joshua here in the Kingdom.
“This is all unprecedented and puts boxing in a great place, it brings the sport into the light.”