LAHORE: Despite producing boxers like Muhammad Wasim and Hussain Shah, boxing has never remained a popular sport in Pakistan mainly due to a lack of understanding and sponsors for the combat sport.
In last few years, however, boxing has grown in popularity among the youth of Pakistan as new boxing gyms have sprung up in major cities like Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad.
This young sport in the country is trying to make its mark through local tournaments. The local coaches and gyms are trying to promote boxing but lack of sponsorship is the biggest hurdle. Recently, however, Super Boxing League’s (SBL) launch may prove to be a game changer for the local boxing scene.
Talking to Pakistan Today, boxing coach and trainer Usman Zulfiqar discussed SBL and its significance for future of boxing in the country, terming it “probably the best thing happened to Pakistani boxers till date.”
“SBL is the first professional boxing league of Pakistan held under the World Boxing Council (WBC) banner, a lucrative international organisation and this tournament is launched under its Pakistani branch,” he said, adding that British-Pakistani boxer Amir Khan has introduced it to the country.
The boxing coach further stated that the league has eight teams with five weight categories for men and one for female boxers.
“In July, the trials for Lahore were held and I took my boxers from Synergy and Equilibrium,” he said. “Originally we had Shahid, Haroon Sohail, Sharez Khan (heavyweight), Aman Ali Shah (72KG), Irfan Ahmed (57KG) for male category and Sarah Syed for the female category.”
He further said that Haroon and Shahid could not participate due to a schedule clash and personal reasons but Irfan, Aman and Sarah qualified for the next round.
“For tryouts, the organisers had given a call for open trials from across Lahore and the boxers had fought in their respective categories with four rounds for one fight,” Usman said, adding there were 14 boxers in Irfan’s categories and he had to fought three bouts to qualify for next round.
Talking about the referee decisions on the fights, Usman said that the organisers were watching every fight closely, observing the boxers and their abilities.
“Irfan’s first fight was ended in the second round, same happened in the second fight and third was called off after one-and-half round,” he said.
“Irfan and two other boxers were selected for the training programme where they are expected to train over 100 boxers from all the categories. A tournament will be held at the end of September as well,” he said, adding that the tournament will be fought on team and point-based model.
Explaining the tournament schedule and points, the fitness trainer explained that every team will get four points on a knockout, three points on Technical Knockout (TKO), two points on unanimous decision and one point for split decision.
“The beauty of this whole tournament is that every fighter, no matter if he/she wins or losses, will get $300 per fight which is a huge boost and benefit for the local fighter,” he stated, adding that it will immensely improve local boxing environment.
“For training, I am restarting my military boot camp-style training under the banner of Equilibrium and we will get the results,” Usman stated.
Discussing the role of Amir Khan in introducing and arranging SBL, Usman said that Amir started this league in India almost two years ago and then launched in Afghanistan.
“Amir Khan is the SBL Co-Chairman along with Salman Iqbal in Pakistan,” Usman said, adding celebrities like Wasim Akram, Fahad Mustafa, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Shahid Afridi are the owners of regional teams.
Talking about the future benefits of SBL, Usman explained that Amir will look for talented boxers and if he remains successful in getting WBC contract for the one or two local boxers, it will benefit both Amir and that boxer.
“The local boxer will be promoted step-by-step from Pakistan to Asia to the international level which will be important for boxing in the country,” he said, adding that before this there was no scope of boxing in Pakistan but this will surely change in the future.