Dubai: Fight night in memory of local boxing stalwart who died of Covid-19

Tributes pour in for Zack Taumafai who set many boxers on the road to stellar achievements.


Mazhar Farooqui

Published: Wed 8 Dec 2021, 2:14 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Dec 2021, 8:04 PM

A man who pioneered combat sports in the region and set many boxers on the road to stellar achievements will be remembered at a tribute evening in Dubai on Saturday.

Popular martial arts and boxing coach Zack Taumafai died of Covid-19 in Dubai on October 5. He was 54.

The dad-of-five had tested positive for the coronavirus days earlier and was admitted to a local hospital following breathing difficulties.  He had not been vaccinated against the disease.

In his illustrious career, Taumafai coached several UAE residents at his gyms in Dubai.

He also shaped the careers of top professional boxers including Ghanian IBF lightweight titlist Richard Commey, who takes on former WBA and WBO lightweight champion at Madison Square Garden on December 11, the day of his tribute evening in Dubai.

“Dad picked Commey from the slums in Ghana and made him what he’s today,” recalled Taumafai’s daughter, Dee Taumafai. ‘My father had a keen eye for talent. He was truly special, way ahead of his time,” she said.

A professional kick boxer, Zack Taumafai was born in Samoa, a small country in the central South Pacific Ocean.

He moved to New Zealand as a teen and worked across various industries before shifting to Australia where he acquired the country’s nationality.

In 2008, he relocated to Dubai and landed a job at a small gym, earning Dh1,500 as a coach.

As his fame grew, he decided to go solo. He opened the KO Gym in Dubai Marina in 2009 which he operated with his children until a few years ago.

Later, he launched the Ringside Gym in Al Quoz with friend Payam Honari who also trained under him.

“Dad brought combat sports to the region,” said Dee Tuamafai. “He also promoted the White-Collar Fight Night where people with no prior boxing experience underwent rigorous training under his guidance before being put in the ring to fight in front of a large crowd. He staged over 50 bouts and corporate boxing and combat events in Dubai. Many of these events were funded form his own pocket,” she said.

The stalwart's untimely demise has plunged the boxing community into mourning.

Representatives from nearly 150 boxing federations from around the world have sent condolences to the family. Those who trained under him are also in shock.

"Totally devastated to hear about the death of Zack Taumafai, my old boxing coach in Dubai. KO Gym was run by Zack and his family and those who went felt like part of that family,” tweeted Mark Lomas, a journalism lecturer at Middlesex University in Dubai. “An old school trainer Zack was hard as nails but cared deeply about boxing and all his fighters,” said Lomas describing how Taumafai changed the lives of people through White Collar Boxing and reality TV show Fighting Fit Dubai. “When he was in your corner shouting instructions, you felt you couldn’t lose,” he said.

Tributes also poured in on a memorial website created in Taumafai's honour.

‘I could always count on you and I will always be grateful to you for sharing your experience, wisdom and kindness to me,” wrote Josh Alosina Wilson on the website.

On December 11,  Ringside Gym will host a tribute gala dinner in Taumafai’s name at JW Marriott Marquis Hotel in Business Bay, Dubai.


Orgnaisers said the event will feature a fight night and live dance performances.

Payam Honari, co-founder of Ringside Gym said,  “ Zack possessed the biggest passion for martial arts and devoted blood, sweat, and tears to this gym. Zack and the Ringside team were planning the upcoming season of fight events before his untimely passing, and it is only fitting to his memory that we dedicate this event as a tribute to Zack and his ongoing legacy."

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