‘I Refuse To Be Defeated’ – How Zuhayr Al-Qahtani’s Harsh Upbringing Prepared Him For Boxing Stardom

Zuhayr Al-Qahtani

Zuhayr “The Arabian Warrior” Al-Qahtani had to fight from an early age just to get by in life, but those struggles forged an indomitable spirit in the Saudi Arabian trailblazer. 

Shaped by his formative experiences, Al-Qahtani is now an unbeaten professional boxer who is set for the biggest bout of his career against Algerian icon Mehdi “Diamond Heart” Zatout at ONE 166: Qatar

“The Arabian Warrior” wants to show that struggles can lead to strength when he debuts on the groundbreaking card at Lusail Sports Arena on Friday, March 1. 

Ahead of Al-Qahtani’s 147-pound catchweight battle against Zatout, find out how a move from his homeland set off the series of events that ultimately led him to the world’s largest martial arts organization. 

A ‘Very Difficult’ Move To The UK 

Al-Qahtani and his five brothers were raised by their parents in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia’s second-largest city. He enjoyed life in his homeland, but a move to the English capital of London changed things dramatically.  

Rather than the laidback life he experienced in Jeddah, the youngster was constantly fighting to keep his head above water. 

He told onefc.com

“It all began when I was 12 years old. I moved from Jeddah to London for my studies. Growing up in school in London was very difficult. It was a very harsh environment.  

“When I talk about having to fight, I’m talking about the whole aspect of life. Struggling and coming to learn a new language was a fight. Being able to understand people was a fight. Living in a new environment was a fight.” 

Despite those hardships, Al-Qahtani now looks back on his upheaval as the most character-building period of his life – especially for his mindset. 

He explained: 

“With time, it helped me build an armor, an impregnable wall. I refuse to take no for an answer, I refuse to be defeated in anything, and I am constantly driven to success.” 

Beating The Bullies 

The metaphorical fights soon became literal as Al-Qahtani tried to navigate his way through life in London. As a newcomer, he was bullied by other kids, but he wouldn’t let himself be a victim.  

Fortunately, his oldest brother was an avid martial artist who shared enough knowledge with his younger sibling that Al-Qahtani could stick up for himself.  

“The Arabian Warrior” said: 

“I was never exposed to bullying in Saudi Arabia, but when I came to London, I was exposed to bullying and other difficulties. 

“Luckily, before I went to school, my eldest brother taught me basic boxing rules and fundamentals at home, like a jab and a cross. I knew a little bit. I had to defend myself. Eventually, I started to get into fights.” 

Taking It To The Gym 

Although it was a battle of self-defense for Al-Qahtani, his mother didn’t want him fighting in the streets, and when it happened too often, she thought it would be useful for him to channel his energy elsewhere. 

She instructed her eldest son to take “The Arabian Warrior” to a proper boxing gym in order to keep him out of trouble – and the youngster was enamored from his very first session. 

The 34-year-old recalled: 

“One, two, three fights became too many. Then my mother advised my brother to take me to a boxing gym. 

“When he took me there, I remember I stuck to it. People were actually fighting, and there were people clapping. It was like gladiators at the Colosseum. I just enjoyed it and stuck to it ever since.”

While many parents can be anxious about their children pursuing tough combat sports, Al-Qahtani’s mother recognized that it was better than the alternative.

So, she backed her son all the way – from pushing him through the door on his first day to his current status as a 9-0 professional. 

Reflecting on that unwavering support, Al-Qahtani offered: 

“My mother knows I love to box. She always motivated me and encouraged me, and whenever I’ve been tired and exhausted, she would tell me to keep going and that nothing good comes easy.” 

A Pioneer For Saudi Arabian Boxing 

Al-Qahtani’s mother was right. A career in boxing hasn’t been easy, but it has been rewarding.  

Following an impressive 50-5 slate as an amateur, “The Arabian Warrior” became his nation’s first professional boxer when he entered the paid ranks in 2017. 

While he honed his skills in London, Saudi Arabia has always been his home, and he’s hoping his unique journey in the sport can lead to further grassroots development in the region:

“If I can define Saudi Arabia to you, it is my mother. No matter how far I am, the heart always desires the mother. I’m going back to Saudi Arabia after this fight, where I’m looking to set up full camps. 

“Saudi has changed and revolutionized itself. Boxing has grown there. My future plan is to have a full training camp in the Middle East. Now, time has changed, and it is a surreal experience being fulfilled in front of me. I’m going back home.” 

Being able to compete on a truly global organization like ONE Championship – and on a massive card like ONE 166: Qatar – is a huge boost for Al-Qahtani’s long-term vision.  

He knows he can reach a wider audience than ever before in his debut, and he believes it will be the start of something even bigger. 

He added: 

“It was a dream come true to sign for a platform like ONE. Being part of ONE can revolutionize my whole life, my whole future. It can bring me closer to goals that need to be done. This fight will be just the start, the stepping stone to something bigger. 

“My ultimate dream is to achieve a World Title and represent the Middle East on the world stage.”

More in Features

Kairat Akhmetov Reece McLaren ONE Fight Night 10 12
Wei Rui
Regian Eersel Alexis Nicolas ONE Fight Night 21 12
Natalia Diachkova Chellina Chirino ONE Friday Fights 55 14
Sean Climaco
Nanami Ichikawa
Hu Yong Woo Sung Hoon ONE Fight Night 11 50
Wei Rui
Smilla Sundell Allycia Hellen Rodrigues ONE Fight Night 14 20
Halil Amir Ahmed Mujtaba ONE Fight Night 16 38
Mur Hawk Slater
Thongpoon PK Saenchai Timur Chuikov ONE Fight Night 19 39