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June 5, 2016

Lyari’s young pugilists and old-timers grieve loss of a hero


June 5, 2016


In Karachi’s old and impoverished neighbourhood of Lyari, which is ripe with boxing talent, residents are grieving over the demise of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, Geo News reported on Saturday.

Home to over 400 boxing clubs and the birthplace of boxer Hussain Shah who won Pakistan an Olympics bronze medal in 1988, he residents of Lyari have remained fervent supporters of the sport through thick and thin.

Inside the Lyari People’s Stadium, young pugilists who arrive there to train every day recall how they grew up watching Ali’s videos. “Muhammad Ali is my hero,” said a teenage boxer practicing inside a boxing ring.

“I see videos of his fights on the internet.”

Perhaps it was Ali’s fight for the voiceless, his streak of rebellion, or the colour of his skin that he became a hero for Lyari’s people, who are fed up with gang violence, drugs and the stigma attached to their locality.

“He looks like one of us. He doesn’t look like an American. It boosts our confidence,” said a trainer.

“When Cassius Clay [Ali’s former name] converted to Islam, we celebrated here,” said Malang Baloch who represented Pakistan in the Olympics.  Despite remaining in the news for the wrong reasons, Lyari still boasts a talent pool of aspiring boxers.

Over the years, boxing has somewhat lost its popularity in Pakistan to cricket and other sports and government no longer promotes aspiring pugilists.

Lyari’s disappointed boxers, who once starved for glory, have now resorted to using drugs and joining gangs.

The sport has seen some revival after Rangers and British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan organised tournaments in the neighbourhood.

In December last year, the British-Pakistani boxer arrived from England to Karachi to watch the final of the Amir Khan Boxing Tournament in Lyari and distributed certificates and trophies to the winners.

It is even more heartening to see girls training in the boxing clubs in Lyari and aiming to make it to international arena.

Bilawal pays tribute

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, has expressed grief and sorrow over the demise of the world’s greatest heavyweight boxing legend, Muhammad Ali, who passed away in the Arizona state of the United States on Saturday.

“Muhammad Ali was not only a greatest sportsman but also among greatest human beings the earth has ever produced who fought against his opponents with the same spirit whether it was the boxing ring or against racism and discrimination against his people,” he stated in a statement.

Bilawal said Ali would add as a golden chapter into the history of mankind for his bold and straight-forward struggle, which changed negative thoughts and attitudes of millions of people towards human equality around the world.

He further said Ali would always be in the memories of all people, especially the generations of millions of people whose lives marked great improvements due to his efforts and narratives.

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