Israeli fighter Haim Gozali walked to the ring in his debut Friday night at Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship’s Knucklemania to the song “Shalom Aleichem.”
But things were anything but peaceful for the 47-year-old fighter from Bat Yam (profiled in the January 29 issue of In Jerusalem) as his opponent, John McAllister, rocked him with a few uppercuts to the head. Somehow, Gozali stayed on his feet.
One announcer on the broadcast said after the first round: “You think this is just like MMA with no gloves. It’s not quite the same thing.”
But only seconds into the second round, Gozali sent his opponent to the canvas, nailing him with a right that hit McAllister’s left ear.
Gozali dropped McAllister a second time moments later and was the winner in a fight he took because he needed money after his security business closed because Tel Aviv bars closed due to COVID.
In a phone interview from Disneyland, Florida, on Sunday, Gozali told The Jerusalem Post of his joy.
“I feel like a teenager,” he said. “Definitely in the first round I was worried. I was losing the fight. He hit me hard. He is a very strong guy. I wasn’t able to hit him, but I got him in the clinch when I could, because I knew if he kept hitting me like that, I could black out. I have a hard Israeli head, so that saved me.”
He said that after that round his coach told him to forget about the first round and go out and win. Gozali said punching his opponent on the ear was part of the strategy he had practiced.
Was this the greatest comeback of his career?
“It was the only comeback,” Gozali said. “Usually, when I’m winning, I’m winning and when I’m losing, I’m losing.”
Gozali said McAllister was a nice guy who hugged him after the flight and told him to have a nice trip back to Israel.
Gozali said he will fly to New York and then Israel, but he is not sure which day this week he will be able to fly back to Israel.
The fighter, who entered the ring with a hat with Magen Davids and an Israeli flag cape, said he was proud to represent Israel with the win. He said he had no broken bones, just pain in his hand and the back of his head.
Gozali said he may fight again and will promote Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship and Bellator in Israel.
“But we gotta get rid of COVID first,” he proclaimed.