After it was decided that boxing would be part of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics despite the suspension of the world boxing governing body (AIBA) by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Pakistan should prepare a solid plan for fielding its boxers in the Olympic qualifiers to be held between January and May 2020.
For handling qualifiers and conducting the event in Tokyo Olympics, the IOC has formed a task force under the president of the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG).
Pakistan should not fear defeat and should go with its full strength in the qualifiers. Unless you believe in your fighters you will not succeed.
India was far behind Pakistan in boxing. Recently they finished with 13 medals in the Asian Championships in Bangkok. The reason behind India’s rise in the sport is its commitment to provide full exposure to its boxers.
India always goes with its full strength. Since 2001 it has hardly missed any international event.
Pakistan was once a force in the sport in Asia under the watch of late Professor Anwar Chowdhry who ruled AIBA for around 40 years as president and as secretary general.
Pakistan, because of financial issues, fielded only one boxer in the last Asian Championship in Bangkok, the only international participation by the nation in almost a year since the Asian Games last year in Indonesia.
I feel that the environment is not ideal for the Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) because the PTI government has not been spending money on sports.
But due to certain development and some pledges of the Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) ministry with the sports stakeholders recently, it is expected that things would start moving in the right direction.
The government has said that it would back the top players in their Olympic bids. I think the government, besides supporting a few other key players in other disciplines, should support boxing overwhelmingly because it is a sport in which Pakistan has a rich history. Pakistan is brimming with talent in the sport. Despite its popularity getting down in international circuit, we can see boxing clubs and associations holding intensive activities all the year round, especially in Karachi and Quetta.
The other day I had a detailed chat with Pakistan’s experienced coach Arshad Hussain. He says he still believes that Pakistan can return to Olympic fold if the boys are given training opportunities immediately after Ramadan. The camp should continue till the end of the Olympic qualifiers, he says. He said that Pakistan has some valiant fighters with ample experience and if they are given exposure ahead of the qualifiers the country can press for a few Olympic seats. The situation ahead of the Olympic qualifiers seem ideal as well as the leading boxers will be given a proper training camp by the government for the 13th South Asian Games slated to be held in Nepal from December 1-10.
And before that the pugilists will flex their muscles in the 33rd National Games to be held in Peshawar from October 26 to November 1.
Pakistan currently has a capable bunch in Syed Mohammad Asif, Naqeebullah, Niamatullah, Ali Ahmed, Gul Zeb, Suleman Baloch, Tanvir Ahmed, Awais Ali Khan, Sanaullah Durrani and Anees Taj, a young heavyweight fighter from Azad Kashmir who got silver medal in the last National Boxing Championships.
The PBF president Khalid Mehmood a few days ago told me that he would try to send the best players to China or Azerbaijan after the South Asian Games to prepare for the Olympic qualifiers.
But it would be too late. A foreign tour for the top boxers ahead of the South Asian Games would be of great value as it would not only help them fight effectively in the SAG but will also benefit them in the qualifiers.
Pakistani boxers have had little exposure during the last few years, so regular training over the next six months would help them shrug off the rustiness and prepare for fighting at the major stage.
If desired results are to be achieved in the Olympic qualifiers the PBF will have to finalise its squad quite early. It should not wait for the National Games. A National Championship has been held and ranking has also been released. The coaches know exactly who could be the hot contenders for Olympic seats.
But I must reiterate that at least a couple of months training on foreign soil would be needed for the fighters so that they could get good sparring before the qualifiers.
Being Secretary General of the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), Khalid is in a good position to arrange foreign training tours for the fighters.
Pakistan last featured in Olympic boxing competitions in 2004 in Athens. The country’s boxing was destroyed during the tenure of Doda Khan Bhutto who did not focus on the game development.