Some 260 boxers from 70 countries are headed to Qatar this week to compete in the first AIBA World Boxing Championships to take place in the Middle East.
Tickets are now on sale for the 10-day long tournament, which kicks off Oct. 5 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena, former venue for the 24th Men’s Handball World Championship held earlier this year.
This year, competitors will vie for the championship title, and for one of 23 qualification spots for the 2016 Olympic games in Rio.
Cuba currently sits at the top of the tournament’s medals table, with 121 wins in total, more than double those won by the next highest ranked country, Russia.
Interest in boxing has slowly grown over the centuries. During its early days, the sport consisted of only three weight classes and featured in the first Olympics in 1896.
Representing the host country is a five-man Qatari team, made up of one light heavyweight, one lightweight, one featherweight and two middleweight boxers.
The titles refer to different subcategories of the main tournament, where boxers are divided by weights and compete against others in their class.
In a statement, 34-year-old captain and 60kg featherweight boxer Abdul Latif expressed his excitement about the competition.
“Every day I have dreamt of boxing at this level here in Qatar, and I can’t believe that it’s finally going to be reality. I’m still pinching myself…
The competition will be really strong, but we hope to make our country proud and to show what boxing is all about. God willing, we can get a couple of medals, too,” he said.
Ottman Jouma Arbadi, 28, said he hoped that the tournament also sparks an interest in boxing among Qatar’s youth.
“It’s going to be special, and it will hopefully inspire many children to take up boxing,” he said.
“There are many people following boxing, but maybe they don’t know too much about the sport. I hope Doha can change that forever,”Arbadi added.
According to organizers, the team has just completed a training camp in Poland in preparation for the event.
This year also marks the first world boxing championships with qualifiers across five continents leading up to the finals, making Doha 2015 the most competitive edition in the history of the tournament, organizers said.
According to Pakistan-based newspaper The Express Tribune, 27-year-old Pakistani heavyweight boxer Mehmoodul Hassan will be one of the five boxers in the Asian continental quota to compete in this month’s event.
Hassan was among the eight boxers who represented Pakistan at the Asian Championship last month, where he made it to the quarter-finals.
The 91-kg heavy Hassan said that he had only four days to train for the event, having received his official invitation letter to the competition on Sept. 28.
“I couldn’t have asked for more. I reported to the camp on Monday night as soon as I received the notification from AIBA,” he said.
Another player to watch out for is the 6’6, 107-kg British boxer Joe Joyce, the reigning European Champion and a hot favorite for this year’s title.
The visual arts graduate, painter and former cheerleader said he hoped to add a new medal to Britain’s sole win in 2007.
“For me, it’s very simple. I need to win it to be in it. My weight category will only have one spot, so it’s kind of the winner takes it all…
It will be hard though and since AIBA changed the rules so that boxers actually had to qualify through official confederation events, it will most likely be the most competitive World Championships ever,” he said in a statement.
Like the Qatari team, the British team has also just completed an intensive boot camp. The team was in Germany with three daily sessions consisting of an early-morning run, conditioning and strength, followed by shadow boxing and sparring.
Tickets for the event are currently on sale, cost between QR 25 and QR100, and can be bought online here.
Passes to the opening ceremony, which will be held from 5:30pm onwards on Oct. 5, cost QR25, while those for bouts, which start from 2pm onwards on subsequent days, cost between QR25 for QR100 for the various rounds.
Children under 12 years old are required to be accompanied by an adult, while those under 3 years old can enter for free and sit on their parents’ laps.
A full schedule of events can be viewed here.
Who’s going? Thoughts?