Why not boxing?

September 20, 2020

The government institutions have offered help to revive hockey. They should assist the boxing federation to revive this game, too.

The Pakistan government has finally taken the initiative to revive hockey as top leaders from every cordon have rushed to the support of the sport.

But what about boxing? In this sport, too, Pakistan used to be a strong force in Asia. In Asian Games, Pakistan has claimed six gold, 20 silver and 35 bronze medals. In Asian Boxing Championships, Pakistan has captured 17 gold, nine silver and 16 bronze medals. In Commonwealth Games, Pakistan boxers have claimed one gold, three silver and four bronze medals.

In this sport, the country also has to its credit an Olympic bronze medal - won by Hussain Shah in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

Unfortunately, after former AIBA and Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) chief Professor Anwar Chowdhry severed ties with the sport during the final days of his life the game was left like an orphan.

After a long drought, we won a bronze medal in the 2014 Seoul Asian Games through Mohammad Waseem, but since then we haven’t even been able to compete at the South Asian level. The condition of our boxing is no less catastrophic than hockey.

In hockey we depend on a few players. In boxing, too, we have only a few who have the potential to offer some resistance at the international circuit. It is sad that the state functionaries haven’t given a single penny to the boxing body during the last two years.

It seems that the PBF has no plans because it has no money. When a sport declines, sponsors go away and the media also don’t pay attention. Then it is only the state that can put life into it. India was far behind Pakistan in boxing but now it has started establishing itself as a force in the sport because of the state support.

The Pakistan government should concentrate on individual sports. If it is done I guarantee that in the next decade Pakistan will be winning medals at every big stage around the world. We have great potential in boxing, wrestling, weightlifting and martial arts.

Boxing has a huge following in Karachi and Quetta. The state and PBF should join hands to work in these areas to revive the sport.

We have become so poor in boxing that we last competed in the Olympics in 2004 (Athens). Because of the miserable condition of the game, mainstream boxers are hurt, not knowing what to do as their precious time is being wasted. Those boxers who have jobs in departments have some satisfaction as they earn bread and butter for their families but the unemployed ones have no future. Effort should be made to protect their future.

The IPC minister Dr Fehmida Mirza should note that if the state does not offer proper support it is not possible to develop such sports which are not backed by sponsors. Despite being WBC No1 professional boxer Mohammad Waseem had no sponsor in Pakistan. It was the PML-N regime under Nawaz Sharif which backed the boxer by releasing a huge amount which helped the fighter to meet his training expenses. Had the state not backed Waseem he would not have been in such a solid position in the international pro circuit where he is today. If a boxer of such a high calibre cannot attract sponsors how can ordinary amateur fighters do that?

The IPC ministry says it will support only those federations which produce results. But this stance is totally wrong. Who will enable these disciplines to regain their former glory if the state does not offer support? Millions are spent on a player’s grooming in developed countries. It is not easy to develop sports in Pakistan without state patronage.

Prime Minister Imran Khan should take notice of this issue. The IPC Ministry tells federations that sports have been devolved and the federal government has no substantial funds to help the federations. If that is the case then Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) should be abolished. I had suggested a model which could work and I came to know that people in the PSB had objected to that because their position was at stake. In our country, spending on sports is considered wasteful. No federal secretary wants to serve in the IPC ministry.

In the era of PTI, sports have been completely ignored. Even cricketers have been deprived of their jobs and they have now been compelled to manage their bread and butter from other sources. Pakistan is neither Australia nor England. Its sports requirements are different. Dr Fehmida should note that England spent 5.5 million pounds for earning a gold in 2016 Rio Olympics despite its powerful corporate structure. The job of the PSB is not to save money but spend money on athletes’ development. Had there been no departments in Pakistan there would have been no sports here. Even in the 1970s cricket was backed by the state when there was no corporate support for the game.

I would urge the IPC minister to take a solid stance and bring Pakistan’s sports out of deep quagmire.

I would also suggest to the federations to bring in serving bureaucrats, well-established politicians and business tycoons in their folds so that they could get proper support in acquiring sponsors.

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Why not boxing?