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Mike Tyson in Dubai to scout out venues for his new boxing academy

DUBAI // “Iron” Mike Tyson, the former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, hopes his new Dubai gym will unearth a diamond in the rough that could go on to make a career in the fight game.

Speaking at Atlantis The Palm on Thursday, the American said Dubai is the perfect venue to launch the Mike Tyson Academy of boxing and fitness.

“People don’t have to fight to be a champion, they can get in shape to be a champion for themselves,” he said.

“There are quite a few gyms in Dubai but they are not the right gyms. The difference is big, and our academy is the right gym. Boxing training is about doing something you hate doing, until you learn how to love it.”

The Dubai venue will be one of eight to open around the world by the end of the year. Academy headquarters will be located in Las Vegas but other gyms will open in France, Australia, New Zealand and across North Africa – as well as the UAE – to offer the sport to a new, growing audience of fight fans. A Tyson-backed gym is also planned to open in Abu Dhabi.

Tyson, 50, ruled the heavyweight division in the late 1980s, and hopes to bring boxing to the masses. A two-year project will see him and his business partners open gyms in 10 countries across five continents.

Two Dubai venues are being viewed by Tyson during his stay before a decision is made where the gym will open.

“Boxing takes hard work and discipline, and we want that in our gyms,” he added. “They are important assets in boxing.

“There are a lot of good up-and-coming fighters all over the world but not all have adequate, high-tech equipment that they need to progress. We will offer that in the academies.

“Kids don’t want to be on the streets, they just need somewhere to go. We want to establish safe places where they can go to get off the streets. It doesn’t mean they’re going to be fighters but it gives them hope.”

Academy centres will include cardio, strength, functional training and boxing training classes and feature a full-size boxing ring.

Those involved want to tap into the growing female interest in boxing, and show it can be as much about fitness as being punched in the face.

“Women love boxing, and that is an area we want to develop in Dubai and elsewhere,” said Patricia Beyeler Columbo, fitness and business development manager.

“To be the best you will need all the conditioning and strength, as well as the speed and agility like Mike had.

“It is his philosophy and will be part of all our academies. The history of boxing is young in Dubai, so we are able to make history here in the UAE.

“Our goal is to have facilities in all these countries so we can find that diamond in the rough. There are boxers out there who need developing, and we can do that by using Mike’s training philosophies.”

Tyson isn’t the first former heavyweight champion to try his luck in the fitness market in Dubai.

Two-time heavyweight champion David “Hayemaker” Haye opened his gym, a private members club, in Downtown in 2015.

Academy co-founder Frederick “Frenchy” Madzimba said the Tyson Academies are a global franchise opportunity.

“We’ve been working on this idea for two years and taking boxing to new markets around the world, and looking to expand quickly,” he said.

“Vegas will most likely be our headquarters and we will be opening there pretty soon, France and North Africa are also ready to go.”

Tyson is hosting a gala dinner on Saturday at the Dubai Ballroom, JW Marriott Marquis Dubai, to celebrate the launch of his academies.

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The National