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Boxing star Waseem deserves support

It’s time to change our approach as cricket isn’t the only sport that is played in this country

Boxing star Waseem deserves support

Pakistan’s only professional boxer and the World Boxing Council (WBC) two-time flyweight world silver champion Mohammad Waseem has the biggest challenge of his life ahead. After mesmerising the boxing world through his stupendous performances last year, he is expected to face Japan’s Daigo Higa for the world title.

The 22-year-old Higa holds the flyweight world crown and will defend it in February, 2018.

As Waseem’s promoter Andy Kim could not find sponsorship, the big fight is going to be held in Japan. The Pakistani boxer fought his previous world silver title bouts against fighters from Philippines in South Korea which can be called the second home of Waseem as his promoter belongs to that country. There the Quetta-born boxer succeeded quite comfortably.

Those were not tough hurdles and Waseem managed to overcome his rivals with an enviable ease. But beating Higa would be a stiff target for the 30-year-old Waseem as the Japanese is in the prime of his illustrious career during which he has fought 14 fights and has won all of them through knock-outs. The knock-out artist Higa, who resides in Tokyo, will have home advantage. He is very quick on his feet and it would be a real challenge for Waseem to dethrone the little boy and earn the first ever title for Pakistan. It would be a great achievement for the Asian Games bronze medallist who has fought his way through the pro career despite all odds.

Waseem, who has played eight bouts, winning all with six knock-outs during his two and a half years of pro career, needs some top-level preparation for the fight against Higa. No doubt he is a valiant fighter but for winning a world crown and that too against a fighter like Higa, something different will have to be done.

Although he recently went through a few months’ training in Panama, also winning three fights in a row, I think he needs to work harder.

He had to face great financial issues despite having pocketed the WBC world silver title twice inside five months last year.

“I am completely focussed and insha Allah will win the fight. I know weak points of Higa and will try to exploit them,” Waseem told ‘The News on Sunday’.

Some experts who are aware of strengths of both the fighters say that it would be a long fight and would go 12 rounds.

Waseem has returned to Pakistan after a training stint in Panama which had started soon after Eid-ul-Fitr. He is expected to be sent to Philippines for training, maybe next month.

The other day when I had a chat with Waseem, he was not happy with the way he was treated by the corporate sector and the Balochistan government.

The Balochistan Chief Minister had promised him substantial support when he met the boxer on his return from Korea after winning the world silver title for the first time last year. He thanked the federal government but said that it was not enough as his training expenses were very high.

His promoter needs 500,000 dollars for organising the fight in Korea. Waseem said that nobody respects him in Pakistan. He has even threatened to play either for the United States or Korea in future.

I feel that he has not been treated fairly by us. We all are culprits. I have seen him taking a taxi to go to his hotel after a press briefing despite having won great crowns. Who will take up the sport in such a scenario?

Some people say that the federal government has already given Rs24 million to Waseem and his promoter. It was great but it should not be the end. If corporate sector does not back the boxer at the most crucial stage of his career then only the government can give him relief. And it’s not difficult for the government.

I have seen British boxer Amir Khan completely shrouded by cameras at the Pearl Continental Hotel in Karachi despite having lost his fight in the United States.

For rating purposes, our media are blindly backing that boxer who according to a source once refused to represent Pakistan after winning Olympic medal for England. And when Waseem was returning to Islamabad after winning his world silver title bout, only a couple of television channels interviewed him at the Islamabad Airport.

Look at cricket! Pakistan’s top cricketers lead a luxurious life and that is why everyone wants to play cricket. It’s time to change our approach.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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