When Agit Kabayel gets into the ring on Saturday, it's not just about the European title and his chances at the World Championship.
For the still undefeated German heavyweight boxer, his 23rd professional fight is also marked by the earthquake disaster in Turkey. "I'm doing it for my second home, I want to make the people down there proud and show them that we won't forget them," Kabayel told the German Press Agency: "I dedicate the fight to the people affected."
Kabayel dedicates fight to earthquake victims
And that's not all: around the time of the European Championship title fight in Bochum's RuhrCongress Hall against Croatian Agron Smakici (10 p.m./Bild-TV), the money raised from fan shirts sold will be donated to people in the earthquake region. Among the more than 50,000 dead are two of Kabayel's relatives. His family is from Pazarcik, in the epicenter of the quake.
When he saw the terrible pictures from Turkey, he was "shocked". "Normally, disasters are always far away from you and your environment. And then it hits exactly where you come from. That's very bitter." His plan was actually to fly there right after the fight. But his local cousins advised him against it, "because I would only get in people's way." Now he wants to help from Germany. With aid packages, calls for donations - and a win against Smakici.
Is the German waiting over?
But the fight is enormously important, especially for him. A win would further improve his chances for the World Championship. Kabayel is already in the top 13 of the big boys in the world rankings of the three boxing associations IBF (8th), WBO (11th) and WBA (13th). "My biggest goal in life is to be world heavyweight champion," said Kabayel. He would be the first German champion in this class since Max Schmeling.
Should Kabayel actually end the more than 90-year wait, he would give boxing, which is increasingly on the ground in Germany, new impetus. "I've always felt ready for this role," said the 30-year-old. He wants to "box against the best in the world" - against the Ukrainian Oleksander Usyk or the British Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua. "But there are many stones on the way there," he knows, "and I still have to clear them away."
Sturm: "He has what it takes to become a big one"
Former world champion Felix Sturm is impressed by Kabayel's talent. "He has what it takes to become a big one," said Sturm of the German Press Agency, "he will be able to assert himself up there". At least on Saturday there is "no excuse" for a defeat, as Kabayel's coach Sükrü Aksu emphasized. His protégé is "fully concentrated, fit" and "completed all sparrings superbly".
Kabayel was already the European heavyweight champion from 2017 to 2019, but then he voluntarily gave up his belt to make a big start in the USA. But the corona pandemic and visa problems thwarted this plan. "That's why I'm even hotter to get the title back," said the hope of the SES boxing stable.
He's also looking forward to the challenge in Bochum because it's his first fight in his hometown. But even with the audience behind them, the favorite with the perfect fight record so far does not believe in a walk. "I've reached a level where you can't underestimate anyone anymore," said Kabayel, emphasizing: "I'm not resting on my laurels. I always start from scratch." Every fight is "an attack forward" for him.