Saturday, December 14, 2013

Boxing in Palestine: Adib al-Dasuqi


   Issam Khalidi
     Adib al-Dasuqi is one of the most undisputed boxers in the history of Palestine. His reputation went beyond Palestine. It’s not an exaggeration to say  that he was capable to challenge American champions such as Floyd Patterson and Mohammad Ali.

      Boxing in Palestine started in the twenties of the past century. There is scarce and no exact information about when and how boxing entered Palestine. Presumably, boxing was among the culture which was brought by the British to Palestine which included various sports. In 1920 they established Jerusalem Sports Club in 1920. The first Arab club in Palestine to adopt boxing was the Orthodox club in Jaffa (established in 1924). The athletes of this club competed with some of the Jewish boxers from the Maccabi (Jewish sports organization). [i]
   In 1932, in Haifa, the Society of Refinement and Charity [Jam’yyat at-Tahthib wal Muwasa] was founded. It promoted boxing by making it the second among other sports after football. The name of this club was always linked to boxing. In September 1933, a new club ‘Boxing and Sports Club’ (Nadi al-Mulakama wal-Riyada) was founded in Haifa. It was the first boxing institution in Palestine.  Later, the name of this club was changed to al Nadi al Ghazi after King Ghazi of Iraq. It was the first boxing club in Palestine. Adib Kamal became the president of this club.[ii]
    In general boxing was spread among four cities in Palestine: Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem and Ramla. Haifa included Arab Workers Organization, Club of Boxing and Sports, Nadi Ansar al-Fadila, Society of Refinement and Charity, the Orthodox Club, Shabab al-Arab and the Islamic Sport Club. Jaffa included Nadi al-Ikha’, The Orthodox Club, the Olympic Institute and Islamic Sport Club. Ramla: Youth Sport Institute. In Jerusalem boxing was limited to Armenian athletes as Nobar Kibril and Mardos Bokrashian.

    Dasuqi was born in Jaffa in 1914, his father was a wrestler of Tabban al-Arabi - a kind of wrestling that was popular during the Ottoman era. In the mid-1930’s Dasuqi started his long journey as a member of the Islamic Sport Clubs in Jaffa (established in 1926). Working with the athletic supervisor of this club and the boxing pioneer Dr. Haqqi Mazin, he acquired more skills in boxing.[iii] In 1935, for the first time he took part in Palestine’s championship which was attended by Haj Amin al-Husseini. Dasuqi became Palestine’s champion in the 60 kg m weight class.[iv] This win encouraged Dasuqi to keep intensifying his training by organizing a healthy daily schedule which included a10 km of running, followed by long distance biking. Dasuqi was encouraged by his father who provided him with all possibilities in order to achieve more success.

   Dasuqi took part in the 1936 Revolt. He, his father and brother were arrested in Sarafand. In his interview with Khalid Ijjawi he brought an incident: “One day when the battles in Jaffa have been intensified, Sheikh Hasan Salame who was moving between the fronts saw me while I was fighting with some mujahidin. He told me, and I quote: “Adib, we have thousands who can carry rifles and bombs, but we don’t have any one who can carry boxing gloves and represent Palestine. Tomorrow you have to travel to Egypt to the Mufti [Haj Amin al-Husseini] to work in your domain [boxing].”

   In September 1937, Dasuqi competed with the Syrian champion Mustafa al-Arna’ut at the De La Salle stage in Jaffa under auspices of its mayor. In January 1938 they competed in Beirut, and resulted in a tie. In late 1940, both Dasuqi and Mazin decided to establish a boxing club they called ‘The Olympic Institute’ [al Ma’had al Olombi], which later  became one of the best institutions for training and preparing high-skilled athletes in Palestine. No doubt that this institute made big contributions to promote boxing in Palestine.                  
      Palestinian boxers could reach a level equal to their Egyptian counterparts (who among them were Olympic champions). At that time, when the activities of the Palestine Sport Federation PSF (established in 1931 as an umbrella for all athletic clubs in Palestine) were suspended due to the impacts of the 1936 Revolt, boxing was able to maintain a moderate level compared with football which witnessed noticeable recession at that time. It’s worth mentioning that boxing was not at the top PSF’s agenda which main attention was focused only on football. Dasuqi and his colleagues established Palestine Boxing Association in the 1930’s.
    Dasuqi competed with British Mandate teams, and with the Jewish Maccabi and ha-Poel teams. He often competed with the best Arab and Armenian boxers in Palestine as Shawqi abu Hajar, Muhammed al-Rayyes, Sanharib Saliba from Haifa; with the Armenian Mardo Bokrashian and Nobar Kibril. He also matched with famous Arab boxers from Egypt Lebanon and Syria.

    About the Olympic Institute Filastin published an article written by member of the Jaffa municipal board:

    I was invited with some colleagues to visit the Olympic Institute in Jaffa. It is an institute that’s main concern is teaching the youth the principles of boxing. It is managed and administered by an active young man who has a desire to promote the youth to practice boxing. It is not new for any one that the popularity of Adib al-Dasooqi reached all Arabic countries. Invited by the Egyptian clubs, we still remember his trip a month and a half ago to Egypt for matching the Egyptian champion Abdo Kibrit and defeating him. Maybe for many who don’t have an idea about sports this will seem to them as a normal issue, however by itself it is brave [achievement] and deserves gratitude and appreciation. Al-Dasuqi is serving the country, volunteering to raise its name up. Dasuqi as we saw him yesterday is a successful teacher and coach. In his institute tens of active young men who Dasuqi took responsibility to train them in the modern principles of boxing, he actually could make from them a good team…. He is putting forth his effort to find a wide athletic environment that could raise the name of Palestine high. I hope the citizens of Jaffa [Yafiyyoon] will appreciate his efforts in his founding this Institute, I hope that many youth will participate in the activities of this club, so they could win in the future.” [v]

    In March 1942 a boxing match was held on Cinema Edison’s stage in Jerusalem between Adib al-Dasuqi and the champion of the Near East Mardos Bokreshian. Although Adib’s weight was 77 kg m, he could defeat Mardo in the fifteenth round. Previously Mardo defeated Sanharib Saliba who defeated the Egyptian champion Abdo Kibrit and the Austrian champion Shadi. So by defeating Mardo, Dasooqi was considered to achieve a big win.[vi]

  Regarding this match, Dasuqi sent a letter to the “al-Difa’” newspaper (established in 1934) complaining that Mardo Bokreshian announced that he is the champion of Palestine in boxing “It is well known, that I defeated him twice, the last time was just three months ago. I forced him to give up because of the harsh punches. He has no right to claim that he is the champion of Palestine, which is my right to claim. I announce that I am ready to fight any boxer whatever his weight is.[vii] 

The sport’s column in Filastin describes one of the rival matches between Adib Dasoqi and Sanharib Saliba which was organized by the Arab Labor Union in Haifa [Jam’iat al Ummal al-Arabia]:

   After the end of the first match, music of the Arab Sports Club had started, and then Sanharib Saliba ascended the ring followed by al-Dasuqi.  Applause and chanting filled the hall. The British referees took their places around the ring. This match ended with 172 points to Adib, 169.5 to Sanharib. [viii]

    In May 1944, just few months before the re-establishment of the PSF Dasuqi matched Mohammed Faraj the Egyptian champion in Mukhtar Club in Cairo and the result was a tie. In July the Palestinian boxers had few matches with the athletes of the Egyptian Brotherhood Organization.  In August 1945 an Egyptian team of boxers, wrestlers and weight lifters visited Palestine. Among them were famous champions such as Mukhtar Hussein, Mohammed J’eisa, Khader al-Tuni (Olympic gold medalist) and Attiah Mohammed. The Egyptian team matched the Haifa selected team. The total result was the win of the Egyptian selected team 5-1. Also in that month, under the auspices of the of the Egyptian Consul in Haifa, a competition in boxing was held between the Egyptian Railways selected team of Cairo and Haifa selected team, ended with the win of the Egyptian team 5-1.
   The Palestinian boxers visited Egypt and participated in the Butulat al-Sharq (Tournament of the Near East). In 1945 Al-Dasuqi matched twice with the Egyptian champion Arafah al-Sayyed. Regarding the third match Dasuqi suggested if al-Sayyid could visit Palestine, Dasuqi would offer him three times (money) more than he [(Dasuqi] earned in Egypt. The newspaper al-Ahram (Egypt's main newspaper) accused Dasuqi of avoiding al-Sayyed. Responding to al-Ahram’s commentary in January 1946, al-Dasuqi sent a letter to Filastin, mentioning that he had invited al-Sayyed to Palestine, confirming that he went to Egypt twice, adding that he invites his opponent to Palestine. Dasuqi reminded that he offered al-Sayyed three times the amount he earned in Egypt which Dasuqi considered a generous offer. So there is no justification for accusing him [Dasuqi] in “evading”. Al-Dasuqi states that Palestinian fans welcome and would like to have this kind of matches in Palestine. [ix]

    Nevertheless, Dasuqi agreed to travel to Egypt in June 1946 to win the (Tournament of the Near East). He matched with Arafa Al-Sayyed the Egyptian champion who defeated al-Dasoqi by points. Adib fell down twice in the last round, therefore Arafa al-Sayyed was considered the winner. Commenting on Dasuqi’s performance the athletic commentator stated that Dasuqi’s performance went well, however, he frequently used his head. Also, he did not use his left hand as it was required to. If he can improve these negatives, certainly, he will be a great boxer. The game was composed of 12 rounds, every round was three minutes. Adib could endure the fight throughout the twelve rounds.[x]  

Filastin published news by its correspondent in Cairo:
          The match in which Arafa al-Sayyed and Adib al-Dasuqi took part in order to win the title of the “Tournament of the Near East” [Botoolat al-Sharq], was one of the greatest matches in boxing ever held. Due to the intensive efforts, stress and endurance that Dasuqi showed, he made people who are interested in professional boxing thinking of organizing another match between Arafa al-Sayyed and Adib al-Dasuqi on the next August 13th. This match will be held in Alexandria or Port Said. As long as there is no professional federation in Palestine, he will officially be granted the title “Champion of Palestine” by the Egyptian Boxing Federation.”[xi]

    In mid May 1946, the Moslem Brotherhood Organization invited Dasuqi and his colleagues to Cairo to compete with its teams in different Egyptians cities. Unfortunately, the Egyptian government gave visas only to half of the Palestinian team. Dasuqi agreed to travel with four of his colleagues which had a negative impact on the results. [The team] won two and lost two in Mansoura; three losses and one win in Alexandria; a tie in Port Said. These results were honorable for the Palestinian team, due to its humble abilities.
    Husein Husni- a teacher of physical education and co-editor of sports column in Filastin (from Egypt) had criticized Dasuqi in his competition in Egypt,[xii] stating that Dasuqi spent most of his time moving between Egyptian cities, neither he nor his colleagues could get enough rest. Also he did not follow a rational schedule for competition. He had four matches in one week in different cities. He was able to win one in Cairo while his three colleagues lost all their matches.  Also, in Alexandria, only one boxer won, while the other three boxers lost. However, in Mansura, the result was very bad; the four Palestinian boxers lost all their matches. In Port Said the result was the same. A kind of organization and management was missed in these matches.[xiii] Dasuqi refuted these results saying: “As it is known that my team was competing with the champions of the Egyptian Kingdom, with a population of 18 million, not to forget that it has a powerful ministry that could finance sports clubs. While my team has no support from any ministry.“[xiv]
  The committee of boxing (affiliated with PSF) held numerous matches, such as the one which was held in August 1946 at the Olympic Institute in Jaffa. Many athletes with different weights took part in this event. It lasted for few consequent days. Other matches were held between the clubs as the one which was held between the Ikha’ (a team of Moslem Brotherhood Association) and the Arab Workers Association [Jamiat as-Umal al-Arabia]. It was organized and conducted by Dr. Haqqi Mazin.[xv]
    In 1947 Dasuqi requested the High Arab Committee HAC for a financial support in order to travel to the United States to compete with the athletes there. Later, he received a letter from the Arab Office in Washington expressing its apology for the lack of ability in managing competitions between Dasuqi and American athletes. Some of the Arab athletes there could overcome this problem by organizing a match between Dasuqi and a Chicago champion. They sent Dasuqi an invitation to the United States. Dasuqi asked the High Arab Committee for financial support. Unfortunately, he received two letters from the Arab Office in Jerusalem and the Arab Fund [Bait al-Mal al-Arabi], they implied the lack of ability to help. In fact, Bait al-Mal al-Arabi allocated 25.000 pounds as an annual support to youth affairs including PSF and scouts teams. In August 1945, Dasuqi inquired about the participation of Palestine in the Olympic Games. He asked if our concerned bodies started to prepare for their participation in these games.

   Dasuqi was fully aware that should Palestine share their participation in the Olympic Games, he would be able to win.  Therefore, he showed an interest in the participation of ‘Arab’ Palestine in these games. He wrote in Filastin: “All other nations have started to prepare for the next Olympic Games. Did our organizations start to prepare [for Olympics]?”[xvi] Unfortunately, the High Arab Committee’s attention was primarily focused on political issues, although it allocated a sum of money from its budget to sponsor athletic clubs, games, and sports occasions. At the same time, it did not realize the patriotic and ideological importance and potential of sports. While on the other side, the Zionist leadership was completely aware of this importance. It successfully utilized sports for its political purposes.

    During the war of 1948, Dasuqi was a member of a Palestinian battalion affiliated with the Egyptian army. During the blockade of Fallouja, he took part in several matches in Cairo. The revenue of these matches was allocated to support the martyrs’ families. In November 1949 Dasoqi worked as a physical education teacher and a coach at the Teachers College in Baghdad. Later, he was assigned an adviser to the Iraqi department of education and a coach for the Royal Club in Baghdad. Dasuqi took part in preparing Iraqi national boxing team which could win many competitions. In 1953 he moved to Syria, where he was assigned a coach for the ministry of defense there. He worked hard in preparing a team that could defeat Lebanese selected team and tied with the Egyptian selected team in 1955. Settling in Amman Jordan, Dasoqi started again in forming his boxing club. He trained many famous boxers such as Fahd al-Tanbour who later became Jordan’s champion. In 1961 Dasuqi announced his challenge to the American champion Floyd Patterson aiming to win the world's championship in boxing. Patterson stated that though he is ready to match with Dasuqi, however, this match will not be undertaken in Jordan, because he does not like to sleep in a tent !. [xvii] In 1970’s Dasuqi left to Kuwait and worked as a coach for the Kuwaiti army. In the beginning of 1980’s he returned to Jordan where he died in 1996.[xviii]

[i]  In July 1927, this club held Palestine’s championship between Adib Kamal Turki and the Jewish champion Frixman. (often some sports news at that time used to mention the last names only without the first names).              
[ii] Adib Bey Cemal, originally form Turkey, he was one of the first boxing champions in Palestine. the author has been informed by one of Adib Kamal’s grandsons from Haifa that Adib Kamal was an officer in the Turkish Army. He remained in Haifa after WWI.
[iii] Haqqi Mazin was one of the most popular boxing coaches in Palestine, he was a born in Jaffa for a father who was an officer in the Turkish army. After 1948 left Palestine to live in Turkey where he started to train famous Turkish athletes. Dasoqi mentioned that Mazin was a graduate of an European physical education institute. While other sources mentioned that he was a dentist!. Presumably, he was a dentist and had institutional courses in boxing.
[iv] Khalid Ijjawi, Al-Haraka al-Riyadiyya al-Falastiniayya fi Ashatat, (Palestinian Sports Movements in Diaspora), Damascus, 2003, p. 23-24.
[v] This article came few month after the founding of the Olympic Institute, in 1940-1941.
[vi] Difa March 22, 1942
[vii] Difa August 12, 1943
[ix] Filastin January 30 , 1946
[x] Filastin June 22, 1946.
[xi] Filastin June 24, 1946.
[xii] Hussein Husni, an Egyptian teacher of physical education came to Palestine in the mid thirties. He taught in few schools, among them was [Rawdat al-Ma’aref] and [Dar al-Aitam al-Islamiyya] in Jerusalem. He was a member of track and field committee which was affiliated with the Palestine Sport Federation. He enthusiastically participated in editing the sport column in  Filastin with Ibrahim Sakkijha. His articles were characterized with nationalistic traits, while at the same time he tried to stimulate physical activity of all citizens of Palestine.
See: [Raed Misri Lilriyada fi Falastin], Hawliyyat al-Quds, No. 5, p. 99-104
[xiii] Filastin May 26, 1946.
[xiv] Filastin May 30, 1946.
[xv] Dr. Haqqi Mazin continued coaching the Islamic Sports Club in Jaffa. At the same time, he was very active in the boxing committee which was affiliated with the PSF. He took part in organizing and managing tens of games in boxing. He was a zeal fan of boxing for which he dedicated his time and efforts.
[xvi] Filastin 23 August, 1945. 
[xvii] Ijjawi. Quoted from the German newspaper ‘Hanover Zeitung’. p. 24.
[xviii] Khair Addeen Abu Jibeen, Qissaht Hayati fi Filastin wal Kuwait, (My Life in Palestine and Kuwait), Dar Shorok, Amman, 2001. P. 455.


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