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Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena continues diversification with world title boxing bouts

Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena is to welcome world title boxing for the first time this weekend as it looks to further enhance the diversification of events on its schedule after a packed 2021.

The 17,000-capacity ASM Global-operated venue put a focus on attracting both elite and amateur sports events during the last year, adding ice hockey, boxing and tennis to the music and entertainment shows it has concentrated on since opening in 2019.

Coca-Cola Arena has welcomed the innovative ‘cage cricket’ Ultimate Kricket Challenge, Tie Break Tens tennis tournament and KHL World Games ice hockey. It has also staged the ‘Social Knockout’ crypto-currency boxing event and will this weekend host a world title double-header as John Riel Casimero defends his WBO bantamweight title against Paul Butler, and Sunny Edwards defends his IBF flyweight title against Jayson Mama.

General manager Mark Jan Kar said the versatility of the arena and its advanced technology systems have been crucial in offering a wider selection of events. This includes a pioneering rigging system and an adaptable configuration that allows for events ranging from full capacity to intimate shows catering to just 500 attendees. Coca-Cola Arena’s roof can hold 190 metric tons, which means it can switch between ice hockey and a music concert in a matter of hours.

“It’s been a challenging year for entertainment, but we’ve always been a dynamic venue,” Kar said.

“Because of Covid we’ve had to think outside the box. We’re a concert venue but we also have the opportunity to undertake sporting events, both amateur and professional.

“We have had to adapt our strategy to ensure that we’re seen as more than just an entertainment venue. By diversifying our strategy and hosting different events, it has allowed us to take on a range of sporting events.

“Pre-Covid, certain arena management companies may have had a preference over certain events – such as sporting events, music events, etc. We have had to re-look at this approach and diversify our line-up to accommodate new shows. The market has changed, and it’s important that to survive, venues adapt.”

Entertainment highlights during 2021 have included Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s sell-out shows and 17 nights of classical music for the InClassica International Music Festival.

Kar said: “We’ve been fortunate with the leadership of the government to be slightly ahead of other countries to undertake live concerts and professional sporting events, which creates opportunities with franchise sports teams in the future.”