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Sports

First Saudi pro boxer hopes to be most successful athlete in Kingdom’s history

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The first Saudi to compete in a professional boxing match hopes to become the most accomplished athlete in the history of the Kingdom, he told Al Arabiya English on Wednesday.

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“I hope to be the single most accomplished individual athlete to come out of Saudi Arabia,” Ziyad al-Maayouf said on the sidelines of a press conference in Jeddah. “That’s my goal. That's my dream. I think I'm doing it right now.”

Al-Maayouf also praised the “love” that the people of Saudi Arabia have shown him in the runup to Saturday’s fight, when he faces Alfredo Alatorre at the Rage on the Red Sea event.

“The people of Saudi Arabia have shown me love that I couldn't dream of as a kid,” he said.

“If I went to sleep at night as a kid, I wouldn’t dare dream to be on a stage like that. So it’s really crazy, I’m very humbled. I’m very blessed. I thank God every day, I’m praying every minute of the day.”

The 22-year-old was born to a Saudi father and Egyptian mother in New York, and was raised in Egypt.

He has been training in Los Angeles under Buddy McGirt, the former IBF junior welterweight and WBC welterweight champion.

Al-Maayouf has spent the last eight weeks training in Liverpool, UK, with McGirt and training partner Callum Smith, who faces Mathieu Bauderlique at light heavyweight in Jeddah on Saturday.

He described it as the toughest camp that he has ever been through, partly due to being in unfamiliar surroundings in the UK, and partly because of the hard sparring that took place there.

“The sparring turns into a war. Everybody wants to take your head off, and that's Liverpool for you,” he said. “…it was just a blessing and I feel for a fight of this magnitude, this is what I needed and this is what I got.”

Al-Maayouf also spoke during the press conference about how he hopes to inspire young athletes from the Kingdom.

The super lightweight fighter sees his bout as a “stepping stone” for aspiring Saudi boxers.

Asked about the pressure of being the flagbearer for future Saudi stars, al-Maayouf responded: “Pressure makes diamonds and that’s what’s going to happen on the night.”

“I’m here to inspire and I want to be a stepping stone for the athletes of Saudi Arabia,” he added.

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