Mark Chamberlain’s Long, Strange Saudi Trip Pays Career Dividends

Of all the surreal stories, situations and images that emanate from a fight week in Saudi Arabia, few revelations have been stranger than that of Turki Alalshikh, chairman of Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority, personally calling Mark Chamberlain to request that he appear on the undercard of Anthony Joshua’s brutal second-round knockout of Francis Ngannou

Chamberlain (15-0, 11 KOs), a 25-year-old Englishman, wisely jumped at the opportunity and was matched with Gavin Gwynne, the current European lightweight champion.

On Saturday, Chamberlain walked to the ring for the toughest test of his career as a global audience looked on to learn exactly what all the fuss was about.

It was a lot of pressure for a relatively inexperienced fighter to deal with, but Chamberlain more than lived up to the hype. He was spiteful, accurate and exciting, and he took Wales’ Gwynne apart from the opening bell. Eventually, after almost four rounds of punishment, the brave Welshman was saved from himself. 

“I’m over the moon,” Chamberlain told Boxing Now. “It was a massive performance in my biggest fight to date and on my biggest stage to date. I can’t explain how happy I am.

“I knew it’d be a tough, gruelling fight, and I prepared for 10 hard rounds – nothing less – but the stoppage was there. I knew I was a stronger man than Gavin, but I knew he was tough. We got him out of there and got the job done.”

During the week, Chamberlain told and retold the story about the life-changing phone call he received from Alalshikh while he was on his way home from a Christmas night out with his sponsors.

Six months ago, Chamberlain was plugging away on the domestic scene, steadily building his reputation as an exciting puncher and seemingly working his way towards a quality showdown with British and Commonwealth lightweight champion Sam Noakes.

Chamberlain could return to Britain for a domestic blockbuster with Noakes. But having dominated the reigning European champion on the biggest stage imaginable, and with the full backing of the man currently pulling many of boxing’s strings, Chamberlain is also all but guaranteed to be invited back to Saudi Arabia.

One show immediately springs to mind: the heavIly hyped Five vs Five card pitching fighters from Chamberlain’s promoter, Queensberry, against their counterparts at Matchroom. The show is scheduled to take place June 1, but at the time of this writing, no weight divisions or fighters had been confirmed.

Chamberlain had his own business to concentrate on last week and wasn’t involved in any secret negotiations. But given the way his life has changed over the past three months, he has learned never to rule anything out.

“I’ve not heard anything,” he said. “I don’t hold anyone against that, but I’d be grateful to be back out here in a huge event. Just [take it] as it comes, but I’d love to be back out here.”

“I just wanna be in 50-50 fights. I’ve had 15 fights now. I believe that I need to push on with my career, and to do that I need to beat these tougher men who are in front of me – i.e., Gavin Gwynne, a great champion. And I take my hat off to him, but the younger, hungrier man came out on top.”

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