Former featherweight champion Billy Dib has faced loss in and out of the ring, but a chance fight with Amir Khan could change everything.
By Anthony Cocks
Billy Dib has faced his fair share of adversity in his life.
This week it was announced that the former IBF featherweight champion will take on Amir Khan at welterweight at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on July 12 after original opponent Neeraj Goyat was forced to withdraw after suffering “severe injuries” in a car accident in his native India.
It’s a big step up in weight and class for Dib, who unsuccessfully challenged for the vacant IBF 130-pound title against Tevin Farmer in Sydney last August.
But Dib has bounced back from hardship before.
In 2015 the Lebanese-Australian’s fiance Sara was diagnosed with leukaemia. The couple was due to be married in December but once it was confirmed Sara had cancer, they had a civil service and were married before she entered hospital.
“I was set to get married on December 5th, and unfortunately my partner Sara came to me and said she had been diagnosed with cancer,” Dib said to the Daily Telegraph.
“Two months and 10 days after entering hospital she lost her battle with cancer and passed away. I was left an empty man. I didn’t know what to do.”
“It became a day-by-day battle. I found that boxing brought me a lot of happiness, I had a lot of good times in the gym, a lot of good times in the ring, and I thought the best thing for me was to get back in the ring, try to find some happiness in the ring.”
“I remember having a talk with Sara just before she passed away, and I said: ‘Does me fighting bother you?’ She said: ‘No it doesn’t, what bothers me is you want to do what everyone else wants you to do, you don’t do what Billy Dib wants to do, just do what makes you happy and we’ll all be happy’.”
Dib will be drawing on the same grit and determination that got him through his loss when he takes on WBO number two ranked 147-pounder Khan in two weeks’ time.
The 33-year-old Sydney-sider insists size won’t be an issue against Khan.
“I did (have reservations) but I’ve sparred a lot of bigger guys throughout my career,” he said to Fightnews.
“I did a bit of work with Shane Mosley when he was a welterweight. I’ve had experience with being in the ring with welterweights and I managed them just fine.”
“The other day Anthony Mundine was kind enough to do a few rounds with me and I’ve been sparring with a young junior middleweight.”
The WBC, who had sanctioned Khan-Goyat for the spurious “Pearl” championship, will now put the WBC International title up for grabs with a top-five ranking available to the winner in the welterweight division.
“The fight between Amir Khan and Billy Dib is now officially confirmed for the WBC International title and I’m proud that it will be contested for at the magnificent King Abdullah Sports City stadium in Jeddah,” said WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman.
“The specially commissioned WBC Pearl Championship belt that was due to be challenged for will now be contested at a future date. The winner of Khan and Dib will receive a WBC ranking in the top five of the welterweight division.”
Dib was originally slated to fight on the undercard but will now enjoy a substantially bigger payday as one-half of the main event.
“Never in my wildest dreams did I think that an opportunity like this would ever arise. How can you turn it down?” asked Dib.
“This is like a moment that could change your life. It’s a risk worth the reward. I know it’s a risk and I know it’s a big ask.”
“I’ve watched Amir Khan his whole professional career closely and I believe I can be competitive against him. Now I get to enjoy Mars bars rather than having to starve myself!”