Fortunes, sometimes, change suddenly. And it happened with Pakistan’s professional boxer Mohammad Waseem last week when his hopes of becoming a world champion were dashed. He was not only deprived of his World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight world silver title the other day but his world ranking also plummeted from number one to four as per the WBC rankings released on February 14, 2018.
This happened because the Pakistani fighter could not go for the world title bout due to lack of sponsorship. Welsh boxer Andrew Selby has now occupied WBC No 1 spot in the flyweight category.
The development has left the Quetta-born boxer shell-shocked. “Last night I learnt it from my friend in London that I have been stripped of my title and WBC standing. I also lost an opportunity to fight for the world crown. I did not sleep last night and I don’t know what to do. It has been unfortunate,” Waseem told ‘The News on Sunday’.
A few months ago, it seemed that Waseem would fight against Japan’s knock-out artist Daigo Higa who holds flyweight world title. But suddenly, the tides changed and Waseem’s promoter Andy Kim said he did not have money and so could not help his fighter to fight for the world title.
A few days ago, Waseem also hinted at a press briefing in Karachi. He said if he did not go for the world title fight against Higa, at least he would try to play mandatory fights so that he could keep his ranking intact. But now the situation has changed for the pugilist who has fought against various odds during his amateur and professional careers.
For the last couple of months, he has not been in contact with his promoter. On February 4, a post at the AK Promotions, owned by Andy Kim, indicated that Kim was trying to arrange a fight for Waseem against world champion Higa. But it seems that all this has now ended.
I have learnt that Kim needed at least 700,000 dollars for organising Waseem’s fight for the world title in Korea.
Waseem last year was supported by the federal government as it released Rs24 million to the boxer. That met his training and other expenses and he defended his title on November 27, 2016, in Korea when he upstaged Giemel Magramo of Philippines in a fight which lasted for 12 rounds. The money also helped the fighter train in Panama and play three bouts which he won.
“Now I will have to start afresh. It means that what I had achieved in my pro career has been lost. Neither could I go for a fight for the world title against Higa nor could I fight to defend my title. It’s really frustrating,” Waseem said.
Waseem has no grudge in his heart for his promoter and said Kim had always supported him. “It’s not the fault of Kim as he loves his fighters and he has properly taken care of me during my stint with him. My contract with him is still intact. He fought for me all the time, arranged bouts for me but in this case when you go for a world fight you definitely need more money and it was a real problem for him. The corporate sector did not support me. British boxer Amir Khan is given protocol when he comes to Pakistan, the corporate sector showers money on him, he is given space for academy but there is nothing for me,” Waseem lamented.
“I have sacrificed my whole life for boxing. I started boxing in 1998 when I was just nine. I faced great troubles in my amateur career but through hard work I tried to hoist Pakistan’s flag on foreign soil. In almost every major event in my amateur career, I won a medal for my country. I also started my pro career on a highly impressive note. I was the first boxer in the world who fought his debut pro bout for a title as you know when I opted for a Korean Boxing Commission (KBC) title bout of ten rounds and won it. I also achieved a rare feat in pro boxing world when I won the WBC world silver title in only my fourth bout. I am proud of my achievements,” Waseem said.
“Former Balochistan Chief Minister Sanaullah Zehri did not keep his promise. He had pledged that he would give me Rs5 million but he did not do so. And now he is also not in the government,” Waseem said.
What happened with Waseem is unfortunate. We have seen that it is difficult for any athlete, other than cricketers, to shape his career in Pakistan due to lack of support. That has happened with Waseem who has been gifted by God with enormous ability as a boxer. He had a golden amateur career, spanning over a decade, during which he won several international medals, including one silver and a bronze in the Commonwealth Games and a bronze in the Asian Games.
The year 2014 was glorious for Waseem as he not only won silver in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games but also secured bronze medal in the Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea.
At that time, Waseem was in great form and he wanted to undergo quality training for 2016 Rio Olympics qualifiers but Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) did not support him which left him disappointed. And it was only in early 2015 that he chose to begin his professional career by entering into an agreement with Korea-based AK Promotions.
For achieving glories in pro circle, Waseem underwent training in South Korea, Japan, the US and Panama.
His former coach Jeff Mayweather once told me about Waseem: “When he boxes, the whole gym stops to see him.”
But it seems that we are going to lose an icon. We have already lost gloss in amateur boxing. Stunning performances from Waseem in professional circle was at least an inspiration for the budding youth of Pakistan who have opted to play boxing.
The other day Olympic bronze medallist Hussain Shah released a video message in which he said that Waseem could become a world champion if he was financially supported.
In his pro career so far, Waseem has played eight bouts, winning all with six knock-outs. I urge the government and corporate sector to help the fighter who still has boxing life and can become the world champion.