Talented national pugilists will switch to professional boxing if the authorities do not ensure financial security for them
The wave of organising professional boxing events in Pakistan by British boxer Amir Khan and others is a real threat to amateur boxing in the country which has been struggling in the international circuit in the discipline for the last couple of decades.
Amir is going to organise a Middle East title bout for Mohammad Waseem on December 19 in Lahore. On the same date, the first ever international Hussain Shah Promotion professional boxing show is being organised at Karachi.
Amir recently organised a professional show in Islamabad. I am not against anyone as boxing activities are very important. However, such activities which could affect amateur boxing in Pakistan should be regulated.
I would give you an example of Pakistan’s highly talented fighter Syed Mohammad Asif Hazara. He featured in the event organised by Amir Khan in Islamabad in October. Asif was Pakistan’s best boxer and it was expected that he would bring more laurels for the country in the next few years in the amateur circuit. He was also a hope for Pakistan in the world qualifying round for next year’s Tokyo Olympics in the flyweight category but we lost him because he turned pro at a stage when Pakistan needed his services. Sources close to Asif have told me that Asif decided to quit amateur boxing because he did not see any future in that genre of the sport.
Asif’s switching over to professional boxing has also created a huge problem for Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF). There was already a shortage of medal-winning boxers and Asif’s decision will hurt Pakistan. Asif’s decision to turn pro may deprive him of his job in Army. He had great amateur prospects but he thought otherwise and he has the right to choose his own career.
Amir, a former two-time world champion and Olympics silver medallist, has been working in Pakistan for the last few years. Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has already handed him a big hall for an academy in Islamabad. He has the approach and can meet influential people and top state functionaries with ease. This helps him a lot and he can do anything in Pakistan.
Promoting and safeguarding amateur boxing is the responsibility of PBF. It should regulate such professional events as they entice young boxers who choose the monetary benefits and go to the professional circuit.
As per rules if a boxer has played less than ten bouts in professional circuit he can return to amateur boxing provided the relevant boxing federation accepts his request. The trend of switching over to professional boxing from amateur has begun and most talented boxers will do that if such pro bouts are organised in Pakistan on a regular basis.
If PBF is to control the damage it will have to promote amateur boxing. And the government will need to cooperate through financial input or amateur boxing will be completely wiped out. It is high time for the authorities to think seriously about this issue. If you keep boxers and coaches in the amateur circuit financially prosperous they will never opt for professional boxing.
For the last few years, I have been witnessing that there has been very little financial input in boxing. The elite boxers don’t get quality exposure and it is natural they will switch over to professional boxing when they don’t see any future in amateur circuit.
The authorities should organise as soon as possible Pakistan Professional Boxing League (PPBL) on the pattern of AIBA. This could bring some financial relief to Pakistan’s top boxers who can secure medals for the nation in amateur circuit.
I remember when Mohammad Waseem won bronze in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games he requested the PBF to manage some foreign training for him so that he could qualify for 2016 Rio Olympics. But the federation failed to do that. It was only then that he decided to switch over to professional boxing where he clicked and won two back-to-back WBC world silver flyweight titles.
We will have to provide financial security to the budding talent and will have to keep them persistently involved in boxing if we are to protect amateur boxing in Pakistan.
Once we had a great standing in Asia in boxing and now we are so weak that our boxers cannot qualify for Olympics. Pakistan last featured in 2004 Athens Olympics in boxing.
The authorities should plan with a renewed courage and spirit in order to revive boxing in which we produced an Olympic medallist in Hussain Shah, also a record five-time South Asian Games gold medallist.
The stakeholders must not keep silent. They have to convince the state machinery and corporate sector to spend heavily in the sport.