Kickboxing Grand Prix (KGP) have announced that they will be hosting a kickboxing extravaganza at the Al-Shaab International Stadium in Baghdad on November 24, 2017 which, will be headlined by British-Iraqi kickboxer, Riyadh Al-Azzawi.
The multiple world kickboxing champion who, was born in Baghdad, had attended Kickboxing Grand Prix 3 in London recently and spoke about his excitement of, returning to Iraq and bringing ‘world class’ kickboxing to the Middle East.
“I’m so excited to work hard with them and make that show happen in Baghdad. After Baghdad we have somewhere else we will announce it. We got a few places booked now, next one is gonna be Baghdad and after somewhere else also Middle-East.”
Why fight for Kickboxing Grand Prix and return to Iraq?
“They make an amazing show and they have a great fighters and they are a great team to work with. I work with too many, different, before you know and these guys are straightforward, their honest. I like honest people. I like real man who they do work from their heart you know so, that’s what I like about them. So, I’m happy to work with them and I’m sure we can do something good.”
“It’s the first time I fight in my hometown. I left 20 years ago; I left my country when I was a kid and now i’m back to fight. Plus, promoting me and my brother at the same time, too hard, especially when you fighting you need to be focused on the competition. I’m fighting a world champion; unifying titles, WKN, ISKA.”
KGP are a ‘sister company’ of Muay Thai Grand Prix (MTGP) and both fall under the umbrella of, Grand Prix Fight Sports which, is co-owned by: Hollywood actor Idris Elba’s kickboxing coach, Kieran Keddle, Philip Tieu and Simon Jays.
There are three potential names on the short-list of opponents for ‘Mr Golden Ferrari’, all of whom are heavyweights including, an (unnamed) ISKA champion. Al-Azzawi is a multiple world kickboxing champion, having accumulated numerous titles titles for: the World Kickboxing Association (WKA), World Kickboxing Network (WKN) and the World Association of Kickboxing Organisations (WAKO).
However, with his celebrity status, Golden Ferrari and luxury lifestyle living in London, does Al-Azzawi still have that same desire from his younger years of being a prize-fighter amongst the elite of world kickboxing today?
“Whoever they pick I’ll be ready. The promoter is gonna pick, I need to train hard, it doesn’t matter who’s gonna be there I’m gonna promise when I’m ready, I’m ready to fight anybody.”
How popular is kickboxing in Iraq and the Middle East?
“It’s huge. In Iraq it something like tradition, you need to be tough, everybody has to be strong. So the family takes the kids from the street, they want to take them to a gym so they don’t fight in the street, these guys have too much energy, so, that’s why its big.”
“I want to go and show them there, the good side because they’ve been doing it amateur for a long time that’s why they stopped. People don’t do it too much because it’s amateur. I want to show them the world class level. I’m sure we’re gonna get great champions in the future from there.”
In recent years, Dubai based kickboxing promotion, Global Fighting Championship (GFC) had attracted international superstars like, Badr Hari, to fight in the Middle East but the hype was short-lived. After a few events which, featured the likes of former GLORY champion, Gökhan Saki and K-1 legends, Peter Aerts and Peter Graham. However, it will be interesting to see how the strategic partnership between KGP and Al-azzawi for, promoting events in the Middle East will unfold.
Inspiring Iraq and those who have suffered personal turmoil
It’s well reported how much Iraq has suffered as a nation from the fall-out of the second Gulf War but that alone isn’t the sole reason why Riyadh Al-Azzawi wants to inspire both his home nation and others around the world that have suffered from adversity.
Al-azzawi was once engaged to Lebanese pop star, Suzanne Tamim who was assassinated by ex-police officer turned hitman, Mohsen el-Sukkari, for a reported payment of 1.4 million Euros by, former Egyptian politician and ‘multi-billionaire’, Hisham Talaat Mustafa.
On reflection of such personal turmoil and heartache, the ‘Golden Champion’ commented:
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After that problems I had in my life since then I’m getting stronger every single day, every single day in every way. Mentally, physically, everything. I’ve become really strong. Nothing can make me step back, I keep going forward.”
“I want a lot of people to learn from that you know. Cause I had a lot of experience. Probably some other people would fall down. I didn’t, I got up. I showed braveheart, I kept my pain inside and said let’s go, let’s be successful. I made my money then I won three world titles in-a-row.”
“Things are well as long as you’re surrounded with a great team, I tell you. I have my brother, he’s amazing, the rest of my team they’re amazing; and one thing I want people to know, doesn’t matter what religion you are, you have to have love in your heart. All I can say is thanks to God, thanks to people who showed me love and make me strong. whatever negative things in my life I keep it inside and keep going forward because if I look back at these things that gonna make me stop. I have no time to stop. I need to keep continuing.”
A KGP press conference is expected to take place in August with Riyadh Al-Azzawi which, will further outline the promotion’s plans for the year ahead including, Kickboxing Grand Prix Baghdad on November 24.
Photo credit: Featured image by Ghazwan Rasheed via Riyadh Al-Azzawi.