It was Hussain Shah who held Pakistan’s flag high in the boxing ring, he won the Bronze Medal in Seoul Olympics 1988, and he ruled the Asian boxing arena during the 1980s. After more than two decades, it seemed like Pakistan’s flag will once again fly high in an Olympic arena when Muhammad Waseem was a part of Pakistan’s boxing team. The boxer who had won nine international medals for Pakistan including a bronze in Asian Games, a silver and a bronze in Commonwealth Games and a silver in South Asian Games, was a big hope for an Olympic medal for Pakistan.
However, Waseem had some disputes with the Pakistan Boxing Federation ahead of Olympic qualifiers in 2013, when he asked the federation to send the team to Cuba or Russia for better preparations, but they turned down his request. “After winning the bronze medal in Asia Cup, I personally requested the government, sports minister and the Pakistan Sports Board that I want to compete in Olympics, for that I need some training sessions,” he shared. “To perform well at the international level, one has to go to Cuba or Russia for the training. I waited for eight months, I approached them once again, but they showed no interest in sending me for training, so I switched to professional boxing.”
The pugilist from Quetta started off his journey from a small gym of his locality in 1999. He had only one goal in his sight, which was to become a boxer and represent Pakistan. He had limited financial resources and no support from the family. “My family wanted me to focus on my education, but I had the passion for boxing,” he said. “I faced a lot of hurdles in my journey, I never gave up and kept moving towards my goal, I became the national champion in 2005 and then went on to win numerous medals and the professional title for my country as well” he stated.
The man, who is also known as Falcon Khan, is the reigning WBC Silver Flyweight Champion and currently the top-ranked WBC boxer in Flyweight Category. He is unbeaten in the eight fights that he has fought so far as a pro boxer. In 2013, when he was ignored by the government, he turned pro and took only four fights to become Pakistan’s first boxer to win the WBC title. Even these achievements are not good enough for the 29-year old to win any kind of government support. “There is no support for boxing in Pakistan,” he said. “I have a Korean promoter Andy Kim who is helping me to train at the world’s biggest gym Floyd Mayweather Boxing Academy,” he added. He is thankful to his department NTDC, who is supporting him, other than that, he has no helping hands.
As Waseem won the WBC Silver Flyweight Champion, the media became his voice to urge the government to help the pugilist. Eventually, after almost a half-a-year of campaigning, the government released Rs 24.675 million and that too to Waseem’s promoter Andy Kim. The ace boxer from Pakistan used the amount for training and travel expenses in Panama, where he fought three fights and stood victorious in all of them that too convincingly, but the government has once again overlooked his efforts and is offering no support.
A more saddening fact is that he is not able to find any private sponsors in the country as well. When he won the WBC title, there were private ventures that used him for marketing purpose, assured him support but did not fulfill their promises. As Waseem says, “I met a lot of people here, they made promises but at the end, they just proved to be hollow ones.”
As per the boxer, it is only Pakistan Army that has supported him throughout. “Whenever I come to Pakistan, only Pakistan Army gives me the reception, they support me more than the government,” he told.
Though, Waseem did not get the kind of recognition he deserved at the state level, he still wants to represent only Pakistan at the international stage. “I have offers from Korea, America,” he shared. “Many foreign companies offer me to come and sign with them and they will get me sponsors and fights, but I only want to represent Pakistan as I have fought for fifteen years for my country and I want to represent her in the future as well.”
Pugilist, who was recently rewarded with the Pride of Performance from the government of Pakistan, is not satisfied with the efforts of PBF, he believes that the trainers they have hired are incompetent and that is why the sports in the country has taken a dip.
Waseem is scheduled to take on Diego Higa in a World Title fight in February, which will take place in Japan. His promoter, Andy Kim tried his best to get the bout in either Korea or Pakistan to make things in their favour, but due to lack of financial support and sponsors, Higa will defend his title in his home country, which means it will be tough for Waseem to get a decision in his favour, unless he knocks him out.
The boxer from Quetta has bigger goals in his mind, he wants to win all the prestigious boxing titles for his country. “I want to win WBA, WBC and IBF titles for my country, it is my biggest wish,” he concluded.