No-one likes being in hospital. It is an unpleasant and worrying time. You lie in an uncomfortable bed being pricked and poked watching the clock and wondering when you will be home.
Now imagine this was you but in unfamiliar territory and in a foreign land just one day after a fight where you gave everything and had nothing left at the end. Britain’s Umar Sadiq found himself in this type of situation one day after fighting Fedor Chudinov in September.
The fight took place in Khimki, Russia and produced a bout where the home favourite seemed to take his away challenger lightly. Sadiq fought at a frenetic pace early on and kept up a work-rate that was proof of Sadiq’s dedication to his fitness over the years. Chudinov had eye catching moments that would win rounds but Sadiq never switched off and kept punching and punching until his tank hit the red light.
The fight was over in the 12th round with Sadiq backed up in the corner taking shot after shot in an attack which began with a short right hand. The punches were not thudding nor dangerous but Sadiq couldn’t return fire and his body finally gave up on him. The referee got it right. A monstrous effort from an underdog who took the fight on a week’s notice and who was actually ahead on one of the judges’ scorecards when the bout was stopped.
After receiving medical treatment in the ring Sadiq walked backstage ready to begin a period of rest and recuperation. While waiting for the obligatory post-fight drug test Sadiq began to complain of a headache. He instructed his team to make the necessary arrangements for him to go to hospital but was only admitted the following morning, which was the soonest he could get a brain scan.
“The neuro doctors weren’t in till Monday and on the Monday they weren’t seeing to me in the hospital so I done a runner,” Sadiq told Boxing Social while trying to pick out a new sofa for a new home he moved into after he returned from Russia.
“I came back to the hospital because I was told the police were going to come after me. They threatened to put a warrant out for my arrest. While I was in the hospital no-one was monitoring me. I wasn’t in a specific condition unit. I was just another person in a hospital in a dorm with five other guys. I doubt it was serious because if it was serious, they would have put me in a private room and had me under observation.
“Anyway, I did the runner on a Monday and by the Wednesday I protested to check out because they refused to show me the test results whilst I was there which I thought was a bit weird and there were quite a lot of things about the hospital [I didn’t like]. I couldn’t eat the food because it was horrible, plus they didn’t have a vegan option. The beds were shit so my back was starting to get worse over the days.
“On the Wednesday I signed a refusal of treatment form to allow them to let me out and then I spent another three days in Moscow alone, allowed my back to ease up a little bit so I could then fly home. If this is what I’ve all done in the same week, within seven days of it happening I think anyone reading this can be rest assured that I’m fine.”
The worry for Sadiq’s family, friends and fans was natural after his efforts against Chudinov. A bleed on the brain, as had been reported, reads as words that should have alarm bells attached to it but Sadiq remained calm throughout the whole process. But was it a bleed on the brain?
“Reading the wording from the initial scan, that was just a few hours after the fight, it wasn’t that it was a bleed in the brain or even in any of the immediate layers on top of the brain,” he said.
“You have several layers, I don’t know how many up on the brain but one of the layers which is several layers from the brain had a bit of a tear in it and then [they] called it technically a bleed in the brain but mind you this is all something that’s been translated from Russian so we’re not even clear if that’s the right wording. But then when I’ve had people in the UK look at it, they’ve said yeah what you’ve had is consistent with a concussion and you should be okay if you rest.”
In the aftermath of his efforts in Russia some media outlets had wrote that Sadiq had been coughing up blood after the fight. The 32-year-old told Social what exactly he thought of those rumours.
“That was bollocks. People were sending me messages saying I heard this, or I read this. My mum was one of them, bless her. People forget that family members read this stuff.”
Sadiq didn’t have his phone while he was in the Russian hospital. His mother had been trying desperately to reach him because of all the worrying stories she had been reading.
“I don’t even know where that’s come from (the coughing up blood), but I remember reading something where it said, ‘Russian sources had said’…”
A fight in Russia on short notice, being admitted to hospital, going on the run in Moscow… a few ingredients there for a novel. The story began sometime before that however, and not without its typical European stumbling blocks put up by third parties who we never know about. Sadiq and his team were told that the earliest they could go to the Russian embassy in London to apply for a visa was just over one week before the fight. Then they were told they wouldn’t get the visas until the Tuesday of fight week.
“There was no way I was collecting a visa on Tuesday and fighting on Friday. We got in touch with the promoters over there and let them know if this is the case then the fight’s off.”
Phone calls were made, the situation was suddenly rectified. Quelle surprise.
“The embassy did what they had to do so we could get our visas the very next day on the Friday.”
Team Sadiq, which included Queensbury Promotions’ Francis Warren, arrived in Russia four days before the fight after taking Covid-19 tests.
Part of the fight contract ensured that a certain type of hotel would be booked for the away team but…
“It looked like a hospital and it was right next to a carriageway so there was a bridge that went pretty much over the compound of the hotel,” Sadiq described.
By the time they arrived at the second and more acceptable hotel it was night-time. Monday was gone. Tuesday beckoned. The fight drew closer. Tricks of other corners of the trade.
Sadiq continued: “And then the Tuesday they asked us to be ready for 9.30am in the morning because they had so much media stuff for us to do. We got picked up and then we had the medicals done and then sat round for two hours before we started the media stuff. We then sat for another two hours before the next round. It was very clever of them.”
The Wednesday brought a welcome day off. Compatriot – and heavyweight who should have retired many moons ago – Danny Williams was also on the Friday card but couldn’t get into the country in time to do the midweek press conference. This then brought about a press conference and weigh-in on the same day 24 hours later.
“As we’ve left the weigh in/press conference we got a call saying they couldn’t get a visa for any of the neutral judges which were contractually agreed,” said Sadiq. “We were told therefore all the judges and the referee are going to have to be Russian. Francis Warren was dealing with it all and he told me to concentrate on the fight and he’d sort it out.”
But trying to concentrate on the biggest fight of his career was proving troublesome for Sadiq. The initial visa issues, the hotel, the tiny changing rooms on fight night, the false information as to when he would fight on the night and now the Russian officials who would be in charge of a contest featuring one of their own. Sadiq knew he would be up against from the beginning, but this was getting to be a bit too much as the clock ticked.
“All I could think to myself was you have to dominate every second of this fight otherwise they’re just going to give it to him. I fought the whole fight thinking that especially because in the first minute of the fight the referee warned me 3-4 times… warned me twice for holding when I wasn’t, once for punching the back of his head… and I forgot what the other one was. Coming into the ring with that all in your mind and the referee has warned you for all of that already… now I’m thinking shit are they going to disqualify me, are they going to deduct points, I can’t afford that. It’s easy for an onlooker to say well you should have been professional and ignored that.
“I boxed a good fight so I was being as professional as I could be but when you’re in the biggest fight of your life and the referee is on your case it’s the unknown. In the fight I was very unsettled mentally which I think affected the way I boxed. That’s not to make an excuse. I still think I put on a good performance. I was genuinely very, very exhausted at the end of the fight. I had nothing left. I don’t argue the stoppage because although I felt I was fine when the fight was stopped looking back at it, it looks like a good stoppage and it’s also backed up by the fact that I fainted after the fight but only briefly for about five seconds and I think that was down to sheer exhaustion.”
Another Russian boxing tale prompting the pun factory to wheel out From Russia With Gloves. For Sadiq, well a lot of lessons have been learned but a great deal of experience has been gained at the same time. Would he do it all again?
“For me, as a fighter, the answer is yes,” he answered. “If I felt like it was an opportunity worth grabbing. I’d have to ask myself is it a good, calculated risk? Where am I in my fitness and training at the time it’s presented. Who is it against? What is the risk and reward? These are things that would be considered.”
That’s for the there and then. The here and now of it all is that Sadiq is still waiting for a brain scan which he has been ordered to do by the British Boxing Board of Control. So, no sparring, no fighting but he can ease himself back into the swing of things. The period of rest Sadiq allowed himself was unusual. This is a man who eats and sleeps boxing. Eight fights March 2019 have all been part of a workload for Sadiq that has included virtually no breaks in the last five years.
“The last 20 months I’ve gone flat out,” he tells us while reminding himself.
Moving to a new house, some DIY, educating himself on the economy and how to manage finances have all been part of his R&R while he waits for his scan.
“I’m just trying to protect myself as best as I can and be prepared for whatever may be.”
If, as he expects, there are no problems with the brain scan Sadiq is looking at fighting a credible opponent for his first fight since Russia when he hopefully returns next year. Ideally, he would like to come back against a European title level opponent bordering on a sub-world level fighter.
“It depends on how things go and what the terrain is like in boxing. At the time we might have to have a fight where I can win with less pressure. For now, we rest, we recover, and we come again.”
A few weeks later.
Still no brain scan.
Now, however, Sadiq had had enough of what was at the time an impending lockdown in England and ventured overseas – not back to Moscow which he recommends as a city break I might add – but to Mexico and soon to the United States. This travelling man, no stranger to packing his bags and flying off somewhere at short notice usually packs his gum shield but not this time.
“I really mean it when I say I’m not going to be sparring,” he told Social from Mexico in his predicament as an unlicensed fighter.
“I think it will be very irresponsible of me to spar. I feel good. I feel that I’m fine. I believe that I’m fine, but health comes first.”
The Board have told Sadiq that they are going through a backlog of scans and appointments so it’s a case of the waiting game. It’s not the end of the world. After all he was in Mexico in a much more appealing climate!
“I’m just out enjoying life and learning Spanish, bettering myself. I speak Spanish conversationally but I’m trying to get fluent while I’m in Mexico. I’m attending a Spanish learning school and that’s helping. And then I’m going to go to the States after and then I’m going to come home for Christmas.”