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Sky is the limit

Mohammad Waseem, Pakistan’s only professional boxer, continues to swim against the tide in his bid to attain international glory

Sky is the limit

In 2013, Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) rejected Mohammad Waseem, currently the country’s only professional boxer, as a spent force. But the Quetta-born pugilist won silver medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze in the Incheon Asian Games the same year and silenced his critics. He did that without any proper preparations.

But still his critics did not stop. In early 2015, he chose to become professional by striking a deal with AK Promotions of Korea, headed by Andy Kim. Some people said that he would not be able to succeed in the pro circle as according to them he had passed his prime. But the Falcon proved them wrong and stunned the world when he went on to become the World Boxing Council (WBC) flyweight silver world champion in a record four bouts when he defeated Jether Oliva of the Philippines in Seoul on July 17, 2016.

The 29-year-old then strongly defended his crown when he edged past dangerous Giemel Magramo of the Philippines also in Korea on November 27 last year.

The achievement boosted his world ranking and the other day he amazed everyone when he became the world’s No 1 boxer when WBC released its June rankings.

It is a stupendous achievement for a boxer, who secured several medals for Pakistan in his decade-long illustrious amateur career.

Waseem, who was not even congratulated by the PBF and Balochistan Boxing Association (BBA) on becoming the world silver champion, had to wait for state funding for almost six months and because of that he remained outside the ring for a long time. But with the release of Rs24 million by the state to his promoter, Waseem’s miraculous journey is now going to resume.

His main target is now to become the flyweight world champion, a title which Japan’s Daigo Higa holds. The 21-year-old Higa has played 13 bouts so far and has got knock-out victories in all of them. It is not yet clear whether Waseem will play world title eliminator or a direct fight for the world title.

Kim is waiting for the response of the WBC. Waseem’s main target is to become the world champion. And he is very confident. “It’s my dream to grab that title. I have started training and am confident that I will win the big fight,” Waseem told ‘The News on Sunday’ from his hometown Quetta.

“On June 29, I am going to Panama for tune-up fights to be held against the local fighters on July 5 and July 29,” he said. “I also plan to get the services of a trainer as it will help me achieve top fitness ahead of the crucial battle,” Waseem revealed.

“Higa is a good boxer but I have read him carefully and know his weak points. He has three to four good shots. If you move he will give you pressure. If you opt for power punches he will stay in the middle and there you will fight. His world title fight against the Mexican was an easy one. I hope I will overcome him,” Waseem explained.

Despite having retained the world silver title, Waseem was unable to attract sponsors. “Sponsorship has been a great issue. The corporate sector is not taking interest, which is depressing. I am doing it all for my country and I deserve respect from my people and encouragement from the corporate sector,” he said.

Waseem is happy with the Pakistan Army who have extended support to the boxer. “Yes, Army backed me and I am thankful to General Amir Riaz who has really encouraged me. He told me that I should continue playing in the pro circuit and assured me that I would be supported,” he said.

“NTDC Managing Director Fayyaz Ahmed Chaudhry also supports me and he has told me that he would manage sponsors for me,” Waseem said.

He also requested television channels to live telecast his next major fight. “See, if it is telecast it will be of great help. Boxing is the most competitive sport in the whole world and as you know I got No1 ranking and it’s not easy. No boxer in the world has ever done so in such a short period,” Waseem added.

Kim is confident that Waseem will become the world champion. “If he prepared rightly he could beat any boxer,” Kim told TNS. “We have chosen Panama because there he will get hard training with lower weight fighters and the environment is also not distracting,” Kim said.

Waseem previously trained in Las Vegas. Jeff Mayweather, uncle of Mayweather Junior, will train him. Jeff is a great coach and has produced several champions.

In Quetta, Waseem is being helped in his training by his WAPDA coach Tariq Siddiqui.

After achieving the world title in flyweight category, Waseem plans to go to the super flyweight category.

Jeff once told me that he had not seen such a great fighter on the planet before. This is great encouragement from an experienced coach for a fighter from Pakistan where professional boxing is not much popular.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at 73.alam@gmail.com.

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