It’s high time our authorities focussed on boxing which canbecome a major sport again
After staying away from the Olym-pics for the last 18 years, is it possible for our boxers to return to the world’s most prestigious event?
It’s a tough question keeping in view the way boxing is being ignored by the state. It’s not easy for us to return to the Olympic fold unless the state backs this sport. For the last few years the state has not been supporting the sport in which Pakistan has a golden past when our pugilists used to win medals consistently in the Asian circuit and could pose a real threat to the world’s beaters in other major events.
We got a bronze in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul thanks to Hussain Shah.
However, following decades of dominance, Pakistan’s boxing saw its decline after 2004. It was the same year when we last fielded our boxers in the Athens Games. And since then Olympics have been a dream for our national boxers who are direly in need of facilities and incentives for regaining the lost prestige of the nation in this sport.
If we look at the available talent we can say that we have raw talent in some parts of the country like Quetta and Karachi but there is a need of focus from the authorities to groom it in the best possible way.
Unless the state assists the sport, its graph will not rise on the international circuit. During the last few years due to financial issues the desired exposure was not given to the boxers. The Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) did try to send fighters to a few events but due to rising inflation and devalued currency it was found difficult to ensure a full-fledged participation.
The disappearance of two top-level boxers during the Birmingham Commonwealth Games also shows that the boxers don’t see a bright future for themselves in the country.
It’s time for the IPC ministry and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to sit with the PBF and devise a strategy for the revival of the sport.
In Birmingham we saw a couple of fine wins from Ilyas Hussain that rekindled the hope that one day Pakistan can regain its lost glory. But the issue is how much we have worked on that boy and a handful of others who have the potential to force their way to the medal podium in the international circuit.
Indeed we will need to think about it.
In the recently concluded national event in Quetta some good fights were seen and even a big upset was witnessed in the 46-48kg when the Asian Under-22 Championship bronze medallist Zohaib Rasheed was beaten by Jehanzeb Khan in the final.
In the event, some fine talent was seen from the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Police. Army, PAF, Navy, Sindh, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan also fielded some good young boys and girls who showed that we still have talent.
From some videos of the fights it can be assessed that fitness of the fighters was not bad. Yes, they need to improve their skill level which takes time and proper coaching.
The 2024 Paris Olympics Qualifiers are about to begin. The new boxing qualifying pathway is very good for the boxers as there are three chances of qualifying for the Olympics. Asian Games, which are slated to be held in Hangzhou, China, next year, this time will also serve as qualifiers for the 2024 Paris Games. And there will be two world qualifying rounds in 2024, the year of the Olympics.
PBF has planned to launch preparation for the Asian Games from next February as the federation wants to hold an inter-departmental event in late January which will help it to spot some talent for the camp. But a big issue is whether PBF will be able to sustain its camp until the Asian Games without the state support. I think it’s not easy keeping in view the financial position of the federation and the kind of support which it gets from the corporate sector. So it’s the right time for the IPC ministry and the PSB to look at the state of boxing and play their role so that the PBF may be enabled to properly groom its pugilists for the Olympic Qualifiers.
We have some fine talent in a few weight categories and we have the capability to pull off surprise in the qualifiers provided the boxers are properly treated and given foreign exposure, camps abroad and some financial support so that their families could get some encouragement who will then start backing their children.
It’s high time for our authorities to focus on boxing which can become a major sport again.