By Neil Halligan
Eisa Al Dah, the UAE’s first professional boxer, will be Amir Khan's undercard when the Brit fights in New York on May 23
Eisa Al Dah, the UAE’s first professional boxer is targeting a shot at a world title in the next three years.
Despite being out of the ring for three years, the 36-year-old Emirati believes that, with the right preparation, he has a shot at a big win by 2018.
Speaking ahead of his return to the ring as part the Glory 20 event in World Trade Centre Dubai on April 3, welterweight Al Dah says he’s targeting a shot at a world title.
“My dream is to fight for the world title. Many people say I can't do it, but if I believe in myself, I will do it. Nobody believed that I would be a boxer, now I'm in the ring. Nobody thought I could do my own gym, and now have two branches,” says the sure-footed Emirati.
He began his boxing career in 1999 as an amateur in Abu Dhabi and turned toward the professional ranks in 2007, giving up “a very good office job” with a salary to match. A college graduate, Al Dah worked with Abu Dhabi Distribution as a supervisor before he decided he “wanted to do something special”.
A career record of eight wins (four KOs) and two defeats, Al Dah decided to take a break from the sport and concentrate on re-establishing a steady income for himself through EMD Fitness, a gym based in Jumeirah.
“It was difficult for me to finance myself and find a sponsor to invest; it's a very costly sport. You have to put the best trainers in place and have proper nutritionists. Then I decided to stop for two to three years to build my own gym, which I can make money with,” Al Dah explains.
Business has been good. He opened a second gym in Mirdiff and has plans to expand with other gyms in Dubai.
During the early days in pro career, he formed a friendship with British boxer Amir Khan.
“We are like brothers. We know each other from long time. He's a very humble person,” he says.
When the boxing world was talking about Floyd Mayweather vs Manny Pacquiao – including the possibility of hosting the fight in the UAE – Khan was trying to tempt Mayweather into setting up a bout.
As part of the bait, Al Dah offered to give Mayweather his AED20 million ($5.4 million) gym if the American fought and defeated Khan. Unbowed, the Emirati has upped the offer to include his latest addition in Mirdiff.
“I am still offering the gym because I believe in Amir. Before I offered one gym - now I will offer him two gyms free if he fights Amir and he beats Amir. I'm a big fan of Floyd, he's one of the best fighters, but I believe Amir can beat him. I think one area he can beat Floyd is the speed. I never saw any fighter in the world who has Amir's speed,” he says.
“To be honest, if I can build this one, I can build another one and another one. This is not a big issue for me,” he added.
Khan has offered Al Dah a place on his undercard when he fights in New York on May 23 next against a yet-to-be-confirmed opponent. Ahead of that, however, he’s focused on the upcoming fight in Dubai on April 3. He feels he’s better prepared for his second shot at success in the pro ranks.
“If you talk about before, I was trained and focused but not in the facilities that I have now. I have the best facilities and the best equipment, and I have the best trainer.
“People will see different skills, different speed, different powers, more experienced. If you want to be a world champion and you want to be close to being the top fighter in the world, you have to have the best around you,” he says.
Age holds no barrier for him, and he believes there’s plenty left in the tank.
“Bernard Hopkins - he's 50 - he's still in the ring. What's the difference between me and Bernard? I can give three or four more years. This is what gave me motivation - when I saw Hopkins still fighting,” he says.
He believes he needs at least 15 to 20 fights more before he gets a chance of a world title fight, which he says can be done in two to three years.
First up on his comeback trail is British boxer Kevin Hanks over six rounds. “He has a similar record to me. I think he's a very good fighter. We will put on a good show,” he says.
Win or lose, the next planned fight will be in New York, when Al Dah will train alongside Khan before the May 23 bout, by which stage he will be in no doubt whether he has a genuine shot at a world title fight.