Don’t let Amer Abdallah hear you say he’ll be eligible for a shot at the world kickboxing title if he wins his fight Saturday.
There is no “if” in Abdallah’s plans. “When I win,” he quickly corrects.
Everything else, though, is accurate. Abdallah, Lockport Class of ’95, is 14-0 as a professional kickboxer and in April was named the World Kickboxing Association’s fifth-ranked Cruiserweight (189 pounds), worldwide.
The news came to Abdallah in an email just before he flew out for a training session with famed boxing coach Jeff Mayweather.
“I was in the airport going to Vegas, and when I read it, I was hugging my wife, we were so happy,” Abdallah said. “That was a great surprise.”
The email also offered a promise:
“With a win in June against your international opponent,” WKA U.S. President Brian Crenshaw wrote, “this will qualify you for an opportunity for the WKA World Title.”
That international opponent is European champion James Wallis, and the fight is Saturday night in the Kenan Arena, Lockport.
So if Abdallah corrects the wording of your sentence, you’ll just have to roll with it. He’s preparing for the biggest fight of his career.
“I’ve gone through eight weeks of hell so far,” Abdallah said of his training. “Everybody knows the last two weeks, don’t call me, don’t text me, don’t come near me. All my friends and family know to stay away from me these last two weeks. I’m in the zone. This is the most important fight of my life, and all that matters right now is a win. All that matters. I gotta get the win. I gotta get the win. I gotta get the win. Anything outside of that scope is irrelevant to me.”
Abdallah’s opponent hails from the United Kingdom and appears in most photos with his head and chest completely shaven. Although Wallis owns victories against several well-regarded fighters, Abdallah does not care to study him extensively.
Abdallah said he watched only one of Wallis’ fights “just so I could recognize his face.” He is focused only on what he can control.
“The more time I focus on him, the less time I’m worried about me. He’s gotta fight me, he’s gotta adapt to me. I’m going to instill my will on him,” Abdallah said.
At 36, Abdallah is older for a professional athlete, but his age does nothing to his confidence.
“Wallis is going to come in younger, probably faster, probably stronger. That doesn’t mean anything to me. You got me in front of you,” Abdallah said. “I understand how it is. Everybody that I fight is younger than me. Everyone in the gym when I go to train is younger than me. “Weakness isn’t in my heart,” he added. “I believe in me. I’m confident in me. Yeah, he’s beaten a lot of guys, but he’s never fought me. He’s never fought a guy with the will like me. He’s never fought a guy that’s willing to give everything, and lose everything, in that ring for the win. That belief and that foundation is what carries me through everything.”
That mindset is what attracted Mayweather to train Abdallah. An uncle of Floyd Mayweather and a renowned coach, Mayweather didn’t have to spend his time working with Abdallah.
“Most fighters that I have, I push. But I’m a nice guy,” Mayweather said. “I’m not a rah-rah guy, but I push you by my actions. And he’s one that he meets me halfway, and that’s what I need. I don’t want a fighter that I’m working harder than the fighter. I want a fighter who wants it more than I do. Amer is that guy.”
“Just like he said, when he steps in there, he feels you have to beat me, I don’t have to beat you. You have to adjust to me, I don’t have to adjust to you. Me, as a trainer, that’s how I feel too,” Mayweather continued. “That’s how I want my fighters to feel when they step in the ring.”
Abdallah was born in the Bronx and moved to Western New York at age 9 when his father was granted a McDonald’s franchise after years of trying. “Every day he used to go into a McDonald’s for lunch, and he said, man this is a great business,” Abdallah recalled.
Abdallah’s father got him into martial arts so he could learn to defend himself, and after earning a black belt, he transitioned to kickboxing.
After graduating from Lockport High School, Abdallah went on scholarship to Yarmouk University in Jordan, where he competed on the national kickboxing team and won a national title. After college, he returned to Western New York, which he considers home, and turned professional in 2000. He won his first six fights before pleading guilty in 2005 to charges stemming from an identity theft ring and served time before his return to kickboxing in 2009.
“You have times in your life when you falter,” Abdallah said. “You go through times in your life where you reflect on why the heck did that happen to me, why did I put myself in that position?
“Maybe that’s the direction God needed me to see in order to be successful,” he added. “I wake up every day with a smile on my face because I went through that. I don’t have bad days because I’ve seen what bad days are. I don’t consider myself a tough guy because I’ve seen what tough guys are. Before that …” he trailed off, shaking his head.
Abdallah has won all eight of his fights since returning to the sport and was married in 2012. The dark clouds are in his past, and now he is only focused on how warm the sun is shining.
A win against Wallis would be one of his brightest days.
“Nobody’s heart can be bigger than mine. He can’t possibly want to win more than me,” Abdallah said. “He’s got to be willing to give everything in order to even compete with me. This is everything to me … I don’t even think about a loss. It’s unfathomable to me. I don’t even comprehend that.”
Should Abdallah win Saturday – or once he wins, as he’d say – a title fight could be as little as six months away. He said his team is looking at dates at the end of 2014 or early next spring.
Tickets for the “International Warfare” event, presented by Lace Up Promotions, are available on ticketfly.com but are selling fast. General admission seating is $25. Doors open at 6 p.m. with the opening bell at 7. Joe “Son of a Legend” Taylor, Luay “Arabian Nightmare” Ashkar, Ed Rogers, Eric Pulmeri and Dylan Sullivan are also on the card.