(Editor's Note: following the release of this story, the scheduled heavyweight bout mentioned in this article was canceled as a result of the champion reportedly not appearing to fight. WBFO was not advised of the cancelation in advance.)
It's not often that the challenger in a world title fight can arrange to have the bout hosted in his hometown. But Lockport's Amer Abdallah will get to try for the World Kickboxing Association light heavyweight championship in front of a hometown crowd Saturday night.
Abdallah, who now trains in Las Vegas, is ranked by the WKA as the second-best kickboxer in the world. His quest for the title could have ended up in places including Germany and Dubai, which were under consideration. But Abdallah, who runs a kickboxing promotion firm known as Lace Up Promotions, had the means to secure the fight in Lockport's Kenan Center, where his fight will headline a full card on Saturday night, beginning at 7 p.m.
"Our promotion company started getting so big and recognized that when it came time to be able to bid for these big fights, we were a big player," Abdallah explained in a telephone interview. "I was able to use my leverage as a promoter. I said this is where we want the fight, we won the bid for the fight and we made it happen right where we want it to happen."
Abdallah will fight in the main event against the current champion, Gareth Richards of South Wales, United Kingdom. The local fighter holds the WKA's Intercontinental title, which he described as a title one rung of the ladder below the world championship.
He told WBFO that Western New Yorkers are dedicated sports fans who will step up to support their local teams or athletes. He's hopeful fans will come forward - even casual ones - and support him just like the local community did for Joe Mesi when the latter was rising in the ranks in traditional pro boxing several years ago.
Mesi finished his career undefeated but was forced into retirement by a serious injury. Abdallah pointed to "Baby Joe" as the one who paved the way for pro fighters like him. Mesi's nephew, coincidentally, is scheduled to fight on Saturday night's undercard.
Kickboxing is one of the fighting sports from which competitors often move on to mixed martial arts. MMA is banned in New York State but has gained supporters in Albany over the past couple of year. Some think there may finally be enough support to legalize MMA in 2016.
Supporters say legalized MMA will create a new revenue stream within New York. Abdallah's trainer, Dewey Cooper, looks to the prospect of legalized MMA as a chance for some of Abdallah's clients to go on a career path that will let them compete in their home state.
"It also proves the point on what the ultimate art actually is," Cooper said. "Are the kickboxers dominating the sport? Are the boxers dominating the sport? Are the wrestling or jujitsu guys dominating the sport? I think it just enhances all fight sports."