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Down but not out

Pakistan’s premier boxer Mohammad Waseem lost to South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane but remains determined to keep fighting in his bid to win a world title

Down but not out

Last Sunday Pakistan’s professional boxer Mohammad Waseem lost to South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane through a unanimous decision (114-113, 114-113, 116-110) in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight world title shot in Kuala Lumpur. But those who witnessed the bout must have realized that it was Waseem who dominated the show, scoring a knockdown, and deserved a win. But it happens in professional boxing.

The way the 30-year-old Quetta-born Waseem fought against the 35-year-old former IBF champion Mthalane showed that the Pakistani boxer is a real world champion and deserves a world title in future.

The crown was left vacant by Filipino fighter Donnie Nietes, who held it for several years before rising to the super flyweight category.

The fight had been previously set as an elimination bout but after Donnie Nietes vacated the belt the fight was elevated to IBF flyweight title bout.

I have been following Waseem’s career for the last 12 years. He has nerves of steel, his defence is impeccable and his aggression is unstoppable. But like professional boxers of the developed world he does not have the support and that is what has made his pro career uncertain.

He worked with Korean promoter Andy Kim for almost three years (2015-2017). He twice won the WBC flyweight world silver titles, both in 2016. In only his fourth bout, he won the WBC world silver flyweight title, beating Jether Oliva of the Philippines on July 17, 2016, in Seoul.

In November the same year he defended his title, ousting Filipino Giemel Magramo.

But these achievements did not help Waseem attract sponsors. Pakistan government backed the boxer to some extent but that was not enough for the pugilist to continue his professional career. Waseem missed the chance of playing a WBC world title bout against Japan’s Daigo Higa early this year because of lack of money. It was frustrating for the boxer who did not know what to do. But luckily he got an IBF world title bout against Mthalane which was played on the undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Lucas Matthysse bout in Kuala Lumpur the other day.

Although Pacquiao-Lucas bout was the main show which the Filipino won through the seventh round knock-out, in fact it was Waseem-Moruti fight which attracted the most attention at the Axiatic Centre as the battle lasted for 12 complete rounds with both fighters exhibiting fine skills.

When I asked Waseem’s coach Jeff Mayweather the other day why he lost, he said: “Obviously the judges thought the other guy won, that’s why.

“What I think he should be the champion of the world,” said Jeff, the uncle of Floyd Mayweather Junior of the US. Waseem trained under his supervision for the bout in Las Vegas.

What plans Waseem has now as he is still only 30 and can box for a few more years. “My recent bout against Mthalane was a great learning experience. Now I know what I should do in future,” Waseem told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).

“Those who have witnessed my bout against Mthalane must know who deserved the victory. That the referee favoured my opponent was obvious.

“Before the fight I had been facing several issues. I had issues with my former promoter Andy Kim. There was no promoter. I put in my 1000 percent in the fight and scored a knockdown which counts a lot. The referee kept disturbing me throughout. He did not say anything to my opponent. My defence and head movement was fine and I was sure that it would be my title but in the end it was not in my fate,” Waseem said.

“I did lose but the fight has helped me a lot. I got huge exposure. It was witnessed in over 200 countries. I have been receiving messages since then from promoters from around the world and I am thinking deeply about my future, about whom I should work with,” Waseem said.

The boxer said that he would change his whole system before appearing in the next fight. “Moruti was not a world-level fighter. I knocked down him but he was lucky as the bell rang and he survived. It was luck that favoured him,” said Waseem, who is unhappy with the response of the Pakistani media to his fight.

“I lost but they should have encouraged me. No one from Pakistani media contacted me. No one came to the airport. It’s really depressing. I lost the fight but it was not my fault,” the fighter said. “I am in Islamabad and will unveil future plans inshaAllah soon,” he added.

“I can get another world title bout soon but it depends on whom I strike a deal with,” the fighter said.

Waseem is expected to shift to Islamabad along with his family because of the poor law and order situation in his hometown Quetta. Waseem is a great fighter. Pakistan government and corporate sector must support him. It was disappointing that his bout against Moruti was not shown in Pakistan by any television channel. This is a big, big miss on our part. After taking a couple of weeks rest, Waseem plans to resume his workout in Islamabad for his future bouts.

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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