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Umar Sadiq – from Russia with gloves, a nightmare stay in hospital and no regrets

Umar Sadiq
Umar Sadiq speaks to John Dennen about his ordeal in Russia and how it's left him convinced he's a world class fighter

HIS experience sounds like the trip from hell. Umar Sadiq on short notice travelled to Khimki to fight Russia’s world class Fedor Chudinov. He lost, was held in a grim hospital and is now waiting to see when, and if, he can get a licence to box again and resume his career. The Londoner however insists that he has no regrets.

“I’m a natural fighter basically. So for me it’s give me a good challenge, let’s get it on and that’s what excites me. When it’s a challenging fight I actually enjoy the camp better,” Sadiq tells Boxing News.

Not that he had much of a camp for this fight. “The fight was mooted to me three weeks before, we went out the week before and anyone in professional boxing will tell you, you don’t really train in fight week, you just stay sharp. I’ve essentially gone into this fight, a massive leap in levels, with no camp,” he continued. “When it doesn’t go your way, everyone’s an expert about why you shouldn’t have done it and then when it does go your way, everyone raves.

“You’ve got to make sure you win and when you don’t you’ve got to accept what comes with it.”

He had kept himself in condition and was confident going in, even though the week of the fight was fraught. Sadiq had to change hotels and found out that, despite expectations, all the officials including the referee would be Russian. “I thought I was going to stop him,” he said. “I was in there thinking you’ve got to give them no excuse to take this away from you. The result was there were times when I should have held and I didn’t. There were times when I should have maybe took half of the round off and I didn’t. There were times when I should have thrown a couple of shots, moved around, thrown a couple of shots… Maybe that played a part into the exhaustion as well.”

Sadiq was however fiercely competitive in the contest. “I was thinking about the judges. So whenever the crowd got going I was thinking the judges are going to use this as an excuse to give him the round. So that really took me out of my element,” Umar recalled. “So being in there, I would hit him four or five times and then he would jab me and I was like, ‘F*** I’ve lost the round.’ Now I’ve got to do the most to get it back.”

But he has learned from the fight. “There were things that were done better [by Chudinov] than what I’m used to seeing. Even his reactions to punches, some of the things he would do at times. So he was there, doesn’t have the greatest head movement, or great footwork but there were times when he would lean back just enough and counterpunch,” Sadiq said. “You play mind games as much as you’re fighting physically. There were certain things that I would do and I’d get a reaction from another fighter and he didn’t quite have those reactions. Then that being said he’s also the type of fighter who doesn’t mind taking a few haymakers to walk in.”

26 seconds into the final round Sadiq succumbed to exhaustion and Chudinov’s punching. “As I went down, I remember thinking s*** get up or the ref will stop it and the ref jumped in anyway,” Umar said. “As soon as I accepted okay it’s over, I collapsed on the ropes… I remember when my senses came back to me, I was sat on a chair, they had oxygen on me and stuff.

“It has to be exhaustion, obviously he was hitting me, but I’ve never felt exhaustion like it.”

It’s left Sadiq convinced that he can compete at world class. “I got stopped in the 12th, I was up on one of the judges’ scorecards, the other two were a bit close,” he said. “It tells you it was a good calculated risk I took, so why would I not want to do that?

“He [Chudinov] beat [Felix Sturm] the first time, got robbed the second time. Gave George Groves a hard fight… I’m not saying he’s the most elite super-middleweight that we have today but he’s definitely a respectable super-middleweight. The things that I’ve learned now let me know what it means to be world level and I’m grateful for the insight. That was only my 12th fight, I’m still young in my career.”

His ordeal in Russia would get worse. After the fight a headache came on, he began to feel woozy and so went to a hospital for a check. There was told he had a suspected bleed on the brain and they need to keep him in for observation, though he wasn’t given the results of the scan. “I felt fine personally, then they were refusing to give the results,” he said. “At no point was I concerned or worried. I was like I’m either going to be okay, or I’m not, it’s out of my control… That was my thinking.”

Umar Sadiq

“There was a dorm room of six beds, you’re in there with five strangers. Again it didn’t make sense because they were telling my team they couldn’t come in because of Covid, yet they chucked me a room with five other strangers, with no masks and we’re sleeping there,” he continued. “These metal beds, with metal wiring to hold the mattress up, they were like thick gym mats the mattresses basically, which is why I think my back’s been getting messed because you’ve been spending 22, 23 hours on the bed a day.

“I couldn’t eat the food. For starters most of it had meat in it, but even then the things that didn’t have meat in it were horrible. I eat nearly anything but I couldn’t eat this. It was so rank.”

He was held there days, fleeing on one occasion and only returning when threatened with a police warrant. Still he wasn’t given the private room he demanded. Ultimately he had to sign a refusal of treatment form to be released. He had to check into a hotel to let his back recover before he could fly home. “But I’m out now,” he says cheerfully, “I’m free!”

Now in the UK he has to wait for the results of a brain scan to see if the British Boxing Board of Control will reissue his boxing licence so he can resume his career. “Top Boxer Sadiq, get following,” he says. “I always come out to entertain and deliver, let’s get this licence back and I look forward to entertaining you guys even more.”

In the meantime he is engaged with the social justice issues of today. He was born in Nigeria and boxed internationally for the country as an amateur. Currently there is a wave of popular protests in that country against police brutality and corruption. “I’ve been quite vocal about it, it’s disheartening. I was actually born in Nigeria and I moved to England when I was 12 years old so I feel English but that being said I still have very strong ties to my Nigerian roots and what’s happening is disheartening, it’s upsetting. Luckily my family are all okay,” he said. “Power to the people I say… They have to continue without relenting until they get what they’re asking for, which is simple basic human rights. Just treat us like people and end corruption.

“I’ve tried to help the people as much as I can and I’ll continue to, even if that’s just giving them extra voice I’ll continue to do that.”

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