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SBL: A looming threat to amateur boxing

Professional leagues may lure talent away if authorities don’t take drastic steps to boost amateur boxing in the country

SBL: A looming threat to amateur boxing

British boxer Amir Khan’s recently announced Super Boxing League (SBL) is a real threat to Pakistan’s amateur boxing.

A couple of years ago, his effort to hold a few pro bouts in Karachi indicated that the boxer had in mind some business in Pakistan. And a few days ago, a formal launch of the franchise-based SBL at Karachi proved that notion right.

Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) has announced that it would never back any league which is not allowed by the world boxing governing body (AIBA) and is against its statutes.

Interestingly, at the launching ceremony, there was not a single individual of boxing community. It indicated that the former two-time world champion and Olympic silver medalist would face huge problems in realising his ambitions. He has been able to convince some cricket stars, including Shahid Afridi and Wasim Akram, to purchase franchises but the SBL received a huge blow before its launch when Nadeem Omar opted out of co-owning Quetta Gladiators.

Amir said that the PBF’s job was to promote amateur boxing and he was there to develop professional boxing.

Jehangir Riaz, who owns Sialkot franchise in SBL, claims that he is a member of the PBF Executive Committee. When I asked a PBF senior official about his status, he told me that Jehangir had filed a request to become the PBF’s ExCo member, but his case has not been considered yet. How can PBF allow Russian-Pakistani Jehangir to become a member of its ExCo if he is part of a professional league which will be held under the World Boxing Council (WBC), a pro boxing global body?

Jehangir also ridiculously requested all the associations and departments to allow their boxers to join the league. How is it possible, Mr Jehangir?

It was also astonishing to see at the launching ceremony a representative of Sports Board Punjab (SBP) who pledged his support to the league. That official should know that the job of the Board is to promote amateur boxing. How can SBP become part of a campaign which is expected to damage amateur boxing? I hope the next Punjab government will stop SBP from becoming part of the league.

Amir also announced that the event would be held at the Amir Khan Boxing Academy in Islamabad from September 28 to November 3.

Amir should know that his academy is situated at the premises of the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the Board cannot allow him to stage the league there. If the Board allows him to hold the event there, it will violate its own constitution.

The PBF has directed all its affiliated associations and departments not to allow their boxers to join the league but still Amir may entice some talented young boxers. A section of Pakistan’s boxing community, which has been ignored by the PBF, may join hands with Amir, who faced similar problems when holding such a league in India. The boxers who join SBL will stand disqualified from amateur boxing. This is a clear rule and Pakistan’s amateur boxers who want to serve the country in Olympic boxing should know this.

It is time to protect our amateur boxing which has been suffering since former PBF and AIBA chief late Professor Anwar Chowdhry left charge of Pakistan boxing in the final years of his life.

A franchise owner told me that in the first edition mostly foreign boxers, men and women, would be seen in action.

He said that the basic aim behind this was to create an environment and attract the crowd. Every franchise would carry a few Pakistani boxers as well but their proportion would be less, the owner said. Amir has also announced that former Pakistan Olympic medalist Hussain Shah and former WBC two-time world silver flyweight champion Mohammad Waseem might become part of the league.

When I asked Japan-based Hussain Shah he said he would never become part of such a league which would damage amateur boxing. “Amir is only doing business. I will not become part of such a league which will damage Pakistan’s amateur boxing,” Hussain Shah told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS) from Japan.

“Where and when has Amir played for Pakistan? He is not sincere and he should not be supported,” said Hussain, who won the only Olympic bronze medal for the country in the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games.

He said that the PBF should stop Amir from staging the league or it would hurt the talent which could be used in amateur circuit.

England-based Indian business tycoon Bill Dosanjh, who is the CEO and founder of SBL, was also present at the launching ceremony.

I would advise the PBF to work hard for the promotion of amateur boxing. If drastic steps for the development of amateur boxing were not immediately taken then such pro leagues would create cracks in the Olympic boxing of the country and eat up the top talent. Many boxers would be compelled to opt for professional boxing to earn money.


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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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