Local Muay Thai fighter dreams big: Abdou Haddad prepares for Calgary bout
CALGARY -- Abdou Haddad was born in Algeria. He and his family moved to Canada when he was six years old, starting in Montreal before moving to Calgary.
When he turned 16, Haddad was looking for something to do. That’s when he discovered Muay Thai. Once he started, and got that surge of adrenalin that takes place during a fight, he was hooked and there was no turning back.
“It’s something inside,” he said. "Once you do it you have this emotion and everything. Before the fight you get nervous and excited at the same time. And then once the fight is done you’re like 'I’ve done it!'”
As he progressed at the sport, Haddad was getting better and better but wanted to learn more, so he decided to head for the heart of his sport.
He decided to go to Thailand for a month to start his pro career. That one month turned into 14 months, and it’s an experience Haddad will never forget, because it brought him face to face with a Muay Thai legend, who just happened to be his first professional opponent.
That's because the second month in, he found himself in a ring fighting the legendary Saenchai, considered by many to be pound for pound the best Muay Thai fighter in the world.
It was something akin to launching your golf career with match play against Tiger Woods, your tennis career against Roger Federer, or your Jeopardy career against Ken Jennings.
Haddad explains how it happened.
“It was a 65 kilo tournament and there was one guy missing from the event,” he said. "They were looking for a fighter and they found me. They asked if I could fight and I said sure - of course!
"Then," he adds, "after (I've agreed to fight), I notice it’s Saenchai as my first opponent!"
Despite having zero professional experience in the ring, Haddad did well. He had his nose broken in the first round but still managed to last all three rounds with the legend.
“I went and I fought strong. I showed heart and after that fight I was like, well who else (wants to fight me)?” he says.
That fight gave Haddad a lot of confidence. His coach Vince Gentile says that heart is going to take Abdou a long way in this sport. He says he also loves Haddad's selfless attitude.
“It’s through his training, hitting the bags and intensity that people draw to him,” Gentile says. "He’s a giver not a taker. Before you know it (in the gym), he’s holding pads and teaching people things without them even asking. He’s very humble, very respectable and very coachable.”
Fans in Calgary will get a chance to see Abdou up close and personal at the next Dakada show at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino Feb. 15. Haddad will take to the ring for a K1 fight and he says he’ll be ready.
“I’m taking it very seriously. I’m training hard every day and I want to show people where I come from and how hard I train.”
Haddad’s goal is to be a role model for young kids back in Algeria. He wants them to know that if you work hard you can achieve your dreams- even the dream where your nose gets broken by a legend.