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Rising again

After a series of setbacks, things are beginning to look better for Pakistan’s boxing star Mohammad Waseem

Rising again

A few months ago, things suddenly started to fall apart for Pakistan’s professional boxer and two-time WBC world flyweight silver champion Mohammad Waseem.

His world title bout against Japan’s knock-out artist Daigo Higa could not be arranged because of sponsorship issue. The Quetta-born fighter was quietly sent back home from Panama due to financial issues where he had been invited for training by his promoter. The plan was to train Waseem in Colombia for Higa’s challenge.

He was stripped of his world title because he could not defend it due to funding issues. Subsequently, he also lost his World Boxing Council (WBC) No1 ranking which he held for few months.

The circumstances disturbed the fighter so much that he wanted to quit boxing. But his pro career has got a new lease of life. England’s Sean Gibbon helped him and a world title flyweight fight was arranged for him under Manny Pacquiao Promotions (MP Promotions).

Waseem is now scheduled to face Moruti Mthalane of South Africa in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) flyweight world title fight on July 15 at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur. The title was left vacant by a Filipino fighter Donnie Nietes, who held the crown for several years before climbing to the super flyweight category. The Waseem-Moruti fight was previously set as an elimination bout but after Donnie Nietes vacated the belt the fight was elevated to IBF flyweight title bout.

It is a great chance for the 30-year-old Waseem to achieve the goal of his life. Although the South African is more experienced, Waseem has the capability to beat his rival as he has shown during his impressive career.

The 35-year-old Gauteng-born Moruti has played 37 bouts and lost only two. His achievements include 24 knock-out victories which is a stunning feat.

Waseem has been undefeated in his eight fights, six of which were knock-outs. Waseem-Moruti fight is just two and a half months away. It’s time for Waseem to train hard.

“No problem. Two and a half months is enough time. I have started hard training in Islamabad,” Waseem told ‘The News on Sunday’ in an interview.

“Currently, I am training at a private gymnasium in Islamabad where my all focus is to achieve top physical fitness. And then I plan to train either in Las Vegas, Panama or England. Many people want me to train in England. In 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, I made many followers. Some of them belong to business community and they want me to train in England. I will soon decide where to go for training,” Waseem said.

Before going abroad for training, Waseem is expected to move to Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad, from his private gym in the federal capital for his remaining physical training.

About his tough days, Waseem said it was certainly a testing time of his life. “I cannot recall that time when everything eluded my hands. It was shocking that despite holding world No1 WBC ranking sponsors did not support me. It is also unbearable when you are not given the respect you deserve. I don’t blame anyone but the culture in Pakistan where sports other than cricket are not supported by any one. It’s a tragedy. If we do not change our approach others sports will die,” Waseem said.

“After I lost everything, I had thought that it might be an end to my career without achieving my ultimate goal. But God Almighty helped me and gave me a chance and I am now really ecstatic about my coming fight. It is a big fight and I am very much confident that I will win it,” the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games silver medallist said.

“Now I am confident that I will not need any sponsor in Pakistan. God will help me and InshaAllah you will see I will keep rising in the boxing world,” the determined Waseem said.

After serving Pakistan in the amateur circuit for over a decade during which the fighter won several international medals, Waseem turned pro in early 2015 when he entered a deal with the South Korea-based AK Promotions. Waseem went on to become WBC world silver flyweight champion in only his fourth bout, a rare feat.

On July 17, 2016, Waseem became world silver flyweight champion when he defeated Jether Oliva of the Philippines in Seoul. He defended his crown in November the same year when he upstaged dangerous Giemel Magramo of the Philippines in the title bout in Seoul.

Waseem has made many fans around the world. Once his Las Vegas-based coach Jeff Mayweather told me that when Waseem used to box in the gym in Las Vegas, the whole gym used to stop to witness his sparring. He also said that he had never seen such a hard working boxer in his entire life. This is a tribute to Waseem from the uncle of world boxing king Floyd Mayweather Junior.

But in Pakistan, no one appreciates his achievement. He should be a role model for Pakistan’s boxers. Waseem was free when national boxers were preparing for the Commonwealth Games but Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) did not bother to invite him to the camp for giving tips to the Australia-bound lot. Our sports authorities will have to respect their heroes. Inviting him to the camp for some inspirational tips could have helped national pugilists who suffered in the Commonwealth Games in Australia.

When England boxer Amir Khan comes to Pakistan, he is given a massive reception by both media and corporate sector. But it has never been seen in Waseem’s case.

The federal government gave Waseem a grant of Rs24 million when he needed the amount to meet his training expenses in the United States and elsewhere.


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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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