Last week, British boxer Amir Khan spent a few days in Karachi to raise fund through a professional boxing event which involved boxers from England and Ireland in a bid to drill drinking water wells for the people of Thar. It was the first time that any pro event, although of a low profile, was held in Pakistan.
Amir was also scheduled to launch his first boxing academy in Islamabad on June 4. For that academy Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has already provided Amir, a 2004 Athens Olympics silver medallist, with a hall which has been renovated by the boxer.
At a press conference in Karachi last week, Amir said that Pakistan has a lot of talent but it was being wasted away because of lack of playing facilities. He said that his main focus would be on establishing academies in Pakistan but stressed that it would be possible only through the support of the Pakistan’s government. He also made it clear that in these academies amateur boxing would be promoted. He said that initially foreign coaching staff, mostly from England, would be engaged to impart training to the budding youngsters. He said that the local coaches would also work with the foreign coaches which would help them learn new things and it would be ultimately the locals who then would run these academies. Amir is also waiting for the Punjab’s government to give him land for the academy which he he has planned to build in Lahore. Similarly he will also need land for establishing academy in Karachi, most probably in Lyari which has impressed Amir a lot with the sort of boxing talent the area has.
He also announced on the fight night on Thursday that the second academy which he would open in Pakistan would be in Karachi.
Time will tell us how he executes his plan of reviving boxing in Pakistan and producing what he says ‘world and Olympic champions’. Apparently Amir seemed determined to do something for Pakistan. And he is making every effort to get the sympathy of Pakistanis through his charity campaign which he has started by launching Amir Khan Trust (AKT) on Thursday night. He also seemed depressed with the sort of politics within the Pakistan’s boxing fraternity and also offered his support to fix their problems and bring them on the same line to promote Pakistan’s boxing.
His intentions seem good but let’s see how he proceeds. His father Shajjad Khan told me that the boxers in the academies which Amir is going to establish would also be given monthly stipends. Amir’s uncle Tahir Mehmood told me that next year they would be going to form a professional boxing body in Pakistan. He also said that next year a world title bout would also be staged in Pakistan. However, what Pakistan needs is to promote its amateur boxing which has lost its grace because of negligence on the part of the authorities who don’t have the skill and knowledge to revive the sport.
Actions speak louder than words. Whenever Amir comes here he says he would love to play for Pakistan if he gets an opportunity. The other day he also said that it would be good if he is able to represent Pakistan in Rio Olympics after the world boxing governing body (AIBA) amended its Article 13 (J) of its statutes at its extraordinary congress in Lausanne on June 1 which allowed professional boxers to play in Olympics.
But I firmly believe that he will not be going to do so. Had he really loved to play for Pakistan he would have done that when he was offered by former AIBA and Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) chief, the late Professor Anwar Chowdhry, to represent Pakistan when he was going to turn pro after he won silver medal for England in the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Let’s ask an eyewitness and he will tell you the story.
“During the centennial celebrations of AIBA in Liverpool in 2005 Professor Anwar Chowdhry told Amir’s father in my presence that as Amir had won a silver medal for England in Athens he now should also represent Pakistan at the international amateur level. Chowdhry also told him that they would offer Amir a lucrative job in Pakistan if he plays for the country of his ancestors. His father said they would think about that and the next day Amir turned pro,” PBF official Shah Naeem Zafar told ‘The News on Sunday’.
“Amir may an England star. He is not a Pakistani star as he did not represent the country even in a single event,” Shah added.
And this is not the only case. Amir’s younger brother Haroon Khan opted to play for Pakistan in the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi after English selectors ignored him. When Haroon won bronze in Delhi on his debut he started criticising English selectors. After his maiden appearance for Pakistan Haroon turned pro. When I asked Amir the other day that why Haroon played for Pakistan only in a single event he did not have the answer and rather said “there were some problems and you know the English media…….”
It is yet premature to predict on what parameters Amir would run these academies. If he is to promote pro boxing, which I believe he will, he should in that case will have to respect Pakistan. He should not convince a boxer to turn pro unless he serves Pakistan on the international circuit for an ample period. Earning money is necessary but Pakistan should come first. Pakistan’s leading boxer Mohammad Waseem turned pro after he served the country for ten long years. Amir himself turned pro after he won silver medal in Olympics for England.
If Amir and company try to lure local pugilists to turn pro, amateur boxing in Pakistan would suffer. The PBF will also have to frame certain rules which could counter any such move which would affect amateur boxing in the country.
Amir could have served Pakistan even without establishing academies which is in real sense the task of the PBF and Pakistan’s government. Pakistan’s national boxers suffered a lot during the last few years because of lack of foreign training opportunities and playing facilities. Amir could have helped them by inviting them to England for training but he did not do that. When Amir came to Karachi in December last year he did not even bother to meet Pakistani boxers who were preparing for an international event at the PSB Coaching Centre in Karachi.
Amir also did not take the PBF on board while undertaking all such activities in Karachi. The differences are always there but Amir should respect the PBF which is recognised by AIBA and the Pakistan Olympic Association.
Amir’s every step which will help Pakistan’s boxing will be welcomed. I would also request him to issue a printed document which could explain on what parameters he would be working in Pakistan for the uplift of boxing.
If Amir is sincere, it is the best time for him to strengthen Pakistan’s boxing as the sport direly needs the handy contributions from stars like him.