KARACHI: “It was my grandfather Qadir Baksh Baloch’s dream that at least one boxer from our family should change the course of Pakistani boxing. I know it was his dream, it is mine now,” says Nadir Baloch, as he prepares for his World Boxing Council Asia silver title fight in the featherweight category, a bout that was supposed to happen on April 27, but did not.
“I want his dream to come true, I want it with that title,” the 30-year-old told The Express Tribune.
While many Pakistanis celebrate boxing in their own way, mostly a way they know that is pushed through the conventional means, they may celebrate foreign Pakistani-origin boxers or international boxing stars like Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr, but little do they know about the gems that have been serving Pakistan boxing for generations.
Nadir had played his last amateur boxing event while representing the country at Olympic qualifiers in 2015, but he has turned pro since 2016.
Professional boxing may not be easy, but being a boxer and a non-cricketer in Pakistan makes it much harder.
For someone like Nadir, whose grandfather Qadir Bakshk has been a legend, whose father has been one local star, and every relative he knows including his uncles, know the sport inside out, boxing has only given him pain, while it is an ecstasy solely because of the passion that he has inherited.
Nadir is in line to become the second Pakistani boxer to vie for a WBC silver title, however, he is going for WBC Asian Boxing Council Silver Featherweight to be specific. Earlier in 2016, he had become the first one to give a glimmer of hope to Pakistani boxing that has been ravaged by none other than the Pakistan Boxing Federation, which does not prioritise the athletes.
Nadir, like his good friend and former national camp mate, turned to professional boxing after being bitten and hurt by the PBF too.
While professional boxing has bigger challenges, he feels the road is worth the effort, compared to amateur boxing.
Even for his professional career he needs help, which is seldom bestowed upon a non-cricketer in Pakistan.
“It is not easy to be a boxer. My WBC bout got cancelled because we did not have enough funds,” said Nadir, who has been training at his Faqir Boxing Colony Boxing gym in Orangi town, far from the glamour or resources that may be a part of the life of professional boxers abroad.
“I need at least Rs200,000 for this, because I want this bout to be in Pakistan, these international boxing fights are a requirement to keep the newer crop of boxers inspired. I look at my gym and at times we have to send the boys away because we are out of space, it gets crowded. Despite the lack of resources, the community that I come from at first Lyari and now in Orangi Town the young players love the sport. Also it is better to fight at home then to fly elsewhere for this.”
Nadir said that he would welcome any sponsor from anywhere, not just from Karachi, where he would love to have this bout.
“Corporate sponsors from anywhere would be fine. I can fight anywhere in Pakistan. But I need sponsors,” said Nadir, who is also known as ‘Hulk’.
The bout had gotten cancelled but Nadir’s hopes are not damp in any way. He said that he is looking for a second chance. His record is flawless too since he became professional, with seven bouts and all wins and six knock-outs.
For Nadir, the love of boxing began when he was still young, around 12 years of age, and was working as a labourer at a cycle repair shop.
“I’m the son of a labourer, and boxing came to me rather naturally,” explained Nadir. “I was repairing a cycle one day and my maternal uncle came to me asking if I can fight in a bout. I agreed and ended up winning a local tournament. I received Rs1,000 for it, and at that age too I thought, boxing can pay. Boxing can be another way to live.”
Even now, despite the cancellation, and the new date of June 29, and a new opponent, unlike his previous one from Thailand, Nadir is training at least four hours a day during the holy month of Ramzan.
“I’m training. Boxing is a priority to be, we’ve sacrificed a lot, but this love doesn’t die, it is an addiction I feel, to get hurt in the ring and come back. I know I give more time to boxing than to my children or family, but it is my struggle, it may get over with a title, if I can have enough sponsors and manager but till then, it is a fight for life,” said Nadir.
Nadir had fought for the Universal Boxing Organisation title too in 2017 that he had won against Tanzania’s Juma Fundi, but that was his first professional bout.
Even though with a dream for a silver title, Nadir is still forced to train locally at his own gym or at the National Coaching Centre with his former national team coach Ali Bux, however, if he can get the sponsors and the support, he would like to train in the US or England. Maybe follow in the footsteps of his idol, Mayweather.
“I would like to train in the US, because there are opportunities there, better facilities too. I would want a career like Mayweather’s. Some people even say we resemble each other, but it is the skill, the sharp mindedness and the technique that really inspires me when I see him in the ring,” said Nadir.
He added that it is a testing time for him, as he has a promoter, but the way boxing is perceived in Pakistan does not help, with bouts not aired on television channels or people not investing enough.
But he feels his motivation comes from the family history and a dream that he has been carrying.
“The challenges are endless, there are so many hurdles, but my aim is to break free from this and win a title, work my way to the world title too. None of it will be easy, but I can just keep trying,” concluded Nadir, as he waits for the sponsors to come forward.