When American YouTuber Logan Paul fought legendary boxer Floyd Mayweather in Miami this summer, it was one of the sport’s most divisive nights.
For some it was about money, as Paul made more from the fight than most professional boxers do in their entire career. For others, including current heavyweight champ Tyson Fury, it was a “breath of fresh air,” introducing a new generation of fans to boxing.
Unsurprisingly, Money Kicks sits firmly in the first camp.
The Emirati teenager, real name Rashed, is the son of Dubai billionaire, Dr Saif Ahmed Belhasa. Somewhat unusually, however, the son has a much higher profile than his father.
For almost a decade, Money Kicks has been building a mammoth social media following, mainly thanks to videos of him showing celebrities and athletes his famous “sneaker wardrobe” containing more than $1 million worth of “kicks.”
But on July 30, Belhasa will be following in the footsteps of Logan Paul and brother Jake, swapping likes and shares for left-hooks and southpaws. In a first of its kind in the region, the Emirati will headline a YouTube fight night in Dubai.
Another big name on the “Social Knockout” fight card is Adam Saleh, the US-born YouTuber of Yemeni descent who has accumulated more than 1.4 billion views on his Adam Saleh Vlogs channel. The New Yorker — height 5ft 9in or 175 centimeters — was a competent amateur boxer with a 13-0 record. In 2019, he beat MMA fighter Marcus Stephenson.
With the support of his three million YouTube subscribers and 1.9 million followers on Instagram, 19-year-old Rashed has been training hard and insists his boxing debut is not just a publicity stunt.
“Everyone is asking, ‘Is this a real fight?’ and I’m telling people to watch and see what happens,” Money Kicks tells Livehealthy. “Since it was confirmed that I would fight, I have been training twice a day, non-stop, morning and night.
“I’m really ready for the fight and people will see that this isn’t a joke. There is no headgear. He will feel my punches and I will feel his punches. I’m going for the knockout.”
Belhasa began kickboxing in his early teens but switched solely to fists last year, during the coronavirus pandemic.
He soon got the boxing bug and his desire for an amateur fight grew.
“The first time I came to the boxing gym, they threw me in to do sparring,” he recalls. “They were testing me to see if I was serious about fighting. I put my gloves on and fought because I was not scared.
“I‘ve sparred with professionals and it taught me how to put my hands up and protect myself. When your hands are down and you get hit with a right hook or uppercut, you get to know the feeling and don’t want to have it again.
“I got my ass whooped every time by the pros but when I was fighting less experienced people with less training, I would whoop their ass. That made me think maybe I could do it. Now after training I know I can do it and I know I will have the country behind me.”
Training under ex-UFC fighter Tam Khan at his TK Fitness gym, what started as a pastime has become more of an obsession for Money Kicks and he is now dedicated to perfecting his pugilism.
“They train a lot of champion UFC fighters at TK Fitness and it really doesn’t feel like Dubai. It’s hardcore and there is no playing around. You can see that boxing is not a sport, it’s a lifestyle.
“I wake up around 7.30am and do a lot of running, strength and legs work. Then I have a nap – that is really important. My coach says that sleeping is like petrol – it recharges you so you are ready to go. When I wake up I do pads and sparring.
“I’ve learned technique, leg work. My fitness has become so much better too. It is all about conditioning and my coach has no problem killing me in the gym. Boxing is like a puzzle and I’m pushing myself to my limits to put it together.”
Money Kicks’ contacts book reads like a who’s who of screen and sports, but he admits he has yet to call for help from perhaps his most valuable ally, two-time world heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua.
“Anthony is one of my close friends and he inspires me a lot – he is a real champion. I haven’t messaged him yet but yes, maybe I should. I also like watching videos of Mike Tyson and Roy Jones. Inshallah maybe one of them will come to the fight to support me.
“[Ex-super middleweight world champion] Badou Jack trains at TK and he is a champion too. He was giving me some advice, telling me to be focused and to be nervous but not let those nerves affect me. I’ll remember that when I’m in the ring.”
The fight night in Dubai may only be his debut, but Money Kicks is already plotting potential future bouts against fellow YouTube stars and would even consider facing a more famous “Money,” the nickname for Floyd Mayweather, for the right price.
“With my level I think I’d love to fight FaZe Jarvis,” he says. “Deji would also be great. He wanted to fight me before and we tried to talk but we couldn’t work it out. Maybe that could happen.
“Would I fight Floyd Mayweather? If I’m making millions then sure – I’d get my ass kicked for that.”
For now, however, Money Kicks is staying firmly focused on his first fight.
“I’m really confident that my preparation has been right. I’ve changed my whole outlook. My food is different, my social life is different. I don’t really go out that much anymore. I just love training.
“Everyone has confidence in me. I will never give up and I’m the sort of guy that if I do something, I’ll do it to the fullest.”
Mark is a Dubai-based writer who has couch-surfed through Ukraine, broken bread with football fans in Basra, and appeared on a boxing reality TV show in the UAE – all in pursuit of a good story. Or at least an average anecdote.