Four times Omar Sheika has entered the ring to fight for a championship belt, and in each instance the Paterson, New Jersey light heavyweight has left with nothing to show for it except a hard-fought loss. In all four fights an injury Sheika suffered in combat compromised his chances. Now, after an 18-month layoff because of multiple hand surgeries, Sheika will return to the ring, but not in the customary tune up. Instead, the 32-year-old fighter will be facing a legend in Roy Jones Jr. on March 21 in Jones' own backyard, Pensacola, Florida. It doesn't get much harder than that. An exciting, all-action fighter, Sheika gives new meaning to that old adage: if at first you don't succeed, try and try again.
What's it like having your hair cut while a film crew is shooting you?
Everybody there was excited. People walking the shop by would stop to look at me having my haircut. That never happened before.
You're returning to the ring after what will be an 18-month layoff. During all that time, did people in the "Little Arabia" section of Paterson write you off as finished?
There are always doubters, people who will write you off. But some are very loyal, and stuck with me through the layoff and the surgeries I had on my hand. The first surgery didn't work so I had to have a second one. The main thing is I never counted myself out. Emotionally it was very, very hard. I like to fight and stay busy. But I'm still young, and I feel good.
You've fought four times for a world title at super middleweight and lost. Two of those chances came following a loss, which is unusual. Why do you think they putting you in championship fights?
It's because of the way I fight. I'm exciting. I want to bring out the fans' emotions like Arturo Gatti. As for the losses, for some reason I have had bad luck with injuries. When I fought Joe Calzaghe (2000) I got hit with a hard head butt. Something like that breaks you down. I was never right in the fight after that. With Eric Lucas (2002) I really thought I would beat him, but then I broke my hand in the first round and went the distance fighting with one hand. With Jeff Lacy (2004) I thought I had won the fight (111-117, 113-115 twice). So did a lot of other people. But at the time I didn't have a promoter and he did. I know I hurt him bad a couple of times. One thing's for sure, I don't want to be known as a fighter who fought four times for the title. I want to be known as someone who won the title.
How do you keep your confidence up after losing so many championship fights?
I stay confident because I know they didn't beat me. My injuries did. When I am at my best I know they can't beat me.