UAE’s Habibali beats three-time champion Wakeling in Abu Dhabi kickboxing event

Turkey's Vedat Hoduk dedicates his win over Moldovan Lilian Porcireanu to the earthquake victims


Ashwani Kumar

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UAE champion Ilyas Habibali (centre) after the bout. — Instagram
UAE champion Ilyas Habibali (centre) after the bout. — Instagram

Published: Mon 13 Feb 2023, 7:28 PM

UAE champion Ilyas Habibali secured a unanimous decision win over three-time world champion Michael Wakeling in the UAM Fight Night K1 Pro Kickboxing Championship held in front of a packed Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Throughout the three rounds, both Habibali the ‘Tiger’ and Wakeling the ‘Punisher’ gave their all. The lightweight category fight saw a ferocious exchange of powerful punches and kicks.

In an even duel, where it was difficult to point out a clear winner, the decisive move came in the third and final round. Within 30 seconds, during an exchange of blows, Wakeling lost his balance and was floored. The Briton immediately got back to his feet but Habibali managed to maintain an upper hand during the rest of the 2.5 minutes to bag a unanimous decision, cheered by the local crowd.

“I am very proud of this great achievement,” said Habibali, who extended his win-loss record to 20-3, including five knockouts.

The 31-year-old national champion pointed out that he had closely studied Wakeling’s game.

“It was a very intense fight and Wakeling was a great opponent. I felt it was very close. I knew it would be tough, but this achievement has been a reward for my hard work. To beat such a champion – a world champion – is amazing. I want to dedicate the win to the UAE leadership and the UAE people.”

Win dedicated to quake victims

In the evening’s co-main event, Turkey's Vedat Hoduk delivered a first-round knockout win over his Moldovan opponent Lilian Porcireanu. In the final moments of the opening round, it was a flurry of body shots and a huge head-kick that sent Porcireanu crashing to the ground.

Hoduk, the Istanbul native, dedicated his victory to the victims of the devastating earthquake in Turkey.

“It has been a difficult week,” said an emotional Hoduk, wrapped in the Turkish flag. “I was considering not being here because I know there are a lot of people in my country that need help just now. But I kept my word and got the win, so I would like to dedicate this to all the Turkish people and especially all the victims who lost their lives. I will go there (Turkey) now to help however I can.”

Meanwhile, in the first fight of the evening, Mohamed Touizi, representing the UAE, delivered Uzbekistan’s Ibrokhim Mamatkulov the first defeat of his career with a unanimous decision following three stop-start rounds.

“I am so happy to get a win for the Emirates,” said Touizi, who fights out of the UAM Gym in Abu Dhabi. “I trained very hard for this fight. I want to thank all my coaches and the Federation for their support and will now start my preparations for the Arab Championships on March 1.”

The 14-fight card night featuring 28 athletes from 16 countries — from Italy to Iraq, Portugal to Pakistan — further supported Abu Dhabi’s position as the capital of combat sports.

Abdullah Saeed Al Neyadi, Chairman of the UAE Muaythai and Kickboxing Federation, added: “Congratulations to all the athletes, especially Ilyas and the other winners. This was the first event of the new season, so it was fantastic to see not only such a strong line-up of elite athletes from around the globe, but also such a great turn out at Etihad Arena. The UAE, and Abu Dhabi in particular, has established a combat sports legacy in recent years and we’re excited to build upon this foundation to further enhance kickboxing in the region,” Al Neyadi added.

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