Around the Way with EJ: In the ring with Haidar Alghazi

‘I think it was a big step for me to turn pro.’

ROANOKE, Va. – It was a pleasure catching up with Haidar Alghazi three years after we first met. In 2020, I met Haidar and boxing coach David Hopkins through Big Lick Boxing. Hopkins had just started the gym and had found a handful of Roanoke teens that were interested in the sport.

When I arrived at the gym in northeast Roanoke and met Haidar, it was very clear he was on his way to being great. He did his interview with two belts he had recently one draped over his shoulders. He was confident and focused, yet only had a few matches to his name.

Fast forward to early 2023, Haidar reached out to me to tell me he had turned from amateur status to a pro after signing with Vegas Champ Boxing.

“I promised coach that when I turn 18, I want to turn pro, and turned pro, and this is where I’m at now,” Alghazi said.

They saw the belief in him and vice versa.

“They did a great job promoting him,” Alghazi’s longtime boxing coach David Hopkins said. “They were after him for about a year to turn him pro and of course came to negotiations where Haidar wanted them and he met him and they saw the talent.”

In his first ever pro fight in South Carolina, Haidar knocked his opponent down within the first 45 seconds of the fight — leading to the win.

“For a fighter his size, he certainly packs a punch,” Hopkins said.

In my inside the ring conversation with Haidar and his boxing coach David Hopkins, we discuss the process of going 20-3 as an amateur to now taking on the pro-ranks, how Haidar is hoping to be an inspiration for those near and far and just how special it is to be a beacon of light for his siblings.

“I’m one of the first people in my family to be a professional athlete,” Alghazi said.

“Boxing for a long time has been like a ring of refuge for others and he’s a living testimony as to what that is and he can change his family tree,” Hopkins said.

About the Author

Eric is no stranger to the Roanoke Valley. He is a Roanoke native and proud graduate of William Fleming High School.

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