The performance of Pakistani boxers in the Asian Boxing Championships held in Tashkent recently clearly showed that the country has lost its former gloss and needs a heavy push to regain the status it once had in the continent.
Pakistan fielded seven boxers in the Tashkent competitions. Out of them only three were able to win some bouts. Awais Ali Khan, who belongs to Army, was able to qualify for the World Championships to be held in Hamburg, Germany, later this summer.
Awais defeated India’s Manish Panwar 3-2 in the light heavyweight box-off fight to romp to the global event which will help him gain some experience ahead of the key events next year and 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers.
After beating Mohammad Alyazouri of Jordon 5-0 in the pre-quarter-final, Awais lost to Yerik Alzhanov of Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals. And the Pakistani pugilist had to play a box-off fight against Panwar that ensured his World Championships spot.
As per the rules, six boxers in each weight category were to qualify for the World Championships.
Pakistan’s heavyweight boxer Sanaullah, who had lost to Jakhon Qurbanov of Tajikistan in 91 kg quarter-finals, gave walk-over to Fengkai Yu of China in the box-off fight because of injury.
The Balochistan boxer had knocked out Ni Namal Jayaweera of Sri Lanka in the pre-quarter-finals. Gul Zeb was the only other boxer who won at least one fight. Mohibullah, Suleman Bloch, Tanvir Ahmed and Mohammad Asif lost their opening bouts. Pakistan ended at the 15th spot out of 25 nations.
Uzbekistan topped the Asian event with nine gold medals. They were followed by Kazakhstan with one gold, three silver, and four bronze.
India got third position with two silver and two bronze medals. Mongolia ended fourth with two silver and as many bronze medals. Korea clinched two silver medals and one bronze. China got one silver and two bronze medals. Even Iran and Sri Lanka finished ahead of Pakistan, at the 12th and the 13th spots, respectively.
Pakistan won the 2005 Asian Boxing Championships in Vietnam by winning three gold medals and one silver. Mehrullah Lassi (57kg), Asghar Ali Shah (64kg) and Shoukat Ali (91kg) won gold, while Nouman Karim (51kg) captured silver.
Pakistan has been passing through a tough period since former AIBA and Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) chief Professor Anwar Chowdhry severed ties with the sport in the final years of his life.
The outgoing PBF president Doda Bhutto did nothing for the revival of the sport during his two four-year tenures, from 2008 to 2016.
Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) secretary Khalid Mehmood, who has recently been elected at the top of the national boxing body, has a tough task at hand and he will have to give his hundred percent. Being a top official of the POA, he may not be able to give much time to boxing. He is based in Lahore, but he will have to give time to Karachi and Quetta, Pakistan’s boxing hubs.
The newly-elected PBF secretary Nasir Tung recently stated that boxing had been limited to Karachi and Quetta and now the PBF would spread the sport in the whole country.
It was a political statement. These two cities have contributed a lot to boxing, producing several Asian medalists and an Olympic bronze medalist in the shape of Hussain Shah, who emerged from Lyari (Shah grabbed bronze in the 1988 Seoul Olympics). Nasir and his team should not ignore the achievements of the two cities.
Ask the 2014 Incheon Asian Games bronze medallist and the world Boxing Council (WBC) two-time world silver flyweight champion Mohammad Waseem and he will tell you the rest of the story.
“Pakistan’s result in the Asian Championships is not good. The authorities will have to focus on the game which has been damaged during the last few years. Eleven years ago we finished at the top in the Asian Championships and now we ended at the 15th spot in Tashkent which shows how the game has declined,” Waseem told ‘The News on Sunday’ in an interview.
“The boys need hard and quality training. They need incentives as they have to support their families. They cannot focus on their game when they are financially weak,” he said.
“In Pakistan likes and dislikes have marred the selection process. Some boxers play well at the domestic level but they don’t have international temperament. Those boxers should be picked who not only have international temperament but are also mentally strong and have the killer instinct. In every tour we see almost the same boxers who have not delivered in international circuit for a long time. Unless you give chances to youngsters and groom them properly, Pakistan will not be able to deliver,” Waseem added.
“To prepare for Olympics, the PBF should form a healthy pool and give it maximum international exposure. Look at India, they are progressing rapidly. They change their squads on every trip. They have set their priorities. Their main focus is on Olympics and World Championships. They keep their top players for those events and test the rest in other events so that a strong back-up could be formed for future. So it’s all about planning,” Waseem pointed out.
“It would be good if a foreign coach was hired. A foreign coach would not immediately produce Asian or Olympic champions but would definitely bring some improvement. Our own coaches are not bad but they are not properly backed by the authorities. So bringing a foreign coach would be a good option,” he said.
The next year is very important as national boxers will have to feature in the Commonwealth Games in Australia and Asian Games in Indonesia.
Pakistan has sent seven boxers to Baku for featuring in the Fourth Islamic Games which formally opened in Azerbaijan capital from May 12. It will be interesting to see how they deliver.