Pakistan must stop thinking outside the box

Waseem, Pakistan’s best boxer since 2009, continues to be ignored despite promises.

Natasha Raheel July 05, 2015
Pakistan’s Muhammad Waseem (red) fights during the Men’s Fly (52 kg) semi-final boxing match at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: While Olympic representation may no longer be on the cards for Pakistan hockey, boxer Muhammad Waseem still hopes to hold the country’s flag aloft in Rio next year.

The 27-year-old believes that, with proper support from authorities and the government, Pakistan’s boxers can not only compete in the Olympics but also do well there.

The journey towards Olympic qualification starts with the Asian Boxing Championship in Thailand in August and the AIBA World Championship in Qatar in October.

While the 52-kg pugilist believes he has a genuine chance of qualifying for the Olympics, he warned that the country risks its last chance of representation in Rio.

“I’m training in Quetta but I’m hoping that the Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) and the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) can send me to England or Cuba to train.”

Waseem has been the most successful Pakistani boxer since 2009; recently winning the silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze at the Asian Games in Incheon last year.

“It’s going to be almost a year without any international tournament since the Asian Games in September last year,” said Waseem. “I’ve also spoken to former national coach, Cuba’s Francisco Hernandes, but he is also a man of limited resources, I would still need help from the government to get me to Cuba.”

Read: Olympic hopes: Pakistan boxer Waseem training in Korea

He said that so far the PBF and the PSB had promised him to send him to the UK to train, but nothing except a two-week camp in Korea earlier this year has been arranged. Even in Korea, he was not provided high quality sparring partners, leaving him desperately short of practice.

With almost no support, Waseem says he may be forced to join the pro-boxing circuit. “I’ll wait, and in the worst case scenario, I’ll have to give up playing for my country, which is almost unimaginable for me. However, the Olympic dream is making me wait.”

Waseem has been training at the national camp in Karachi, but that too was closed after the city was hit by a deadly heatwave. “The camp was closed because the weather was not suitable, and boxers can’t train while risking their lives like that,” said Waseem. “The World Championships in Qatar will not be easy. I need proper training and international exposure to compete against boxers from Central Asia.”

Read: Pakistan boxing strikes gold after 66 years

The boxer also claimed the PBF missed the opportunity to send athletes to the AIBA World Series, where the international amateur federation calls the best athletes from each country to train and compete at different events.

However, if things continue the way they are, then Waseem will pursue his career as a pro-boxing athlete and take a desperate shot at the Olympic qualifiers in March 2016 for a wildcard entry.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th,  2015.

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