A seven-member Pakistani boxing outfit will depart for Baku, Azerbaijan from Islamabad Airport on Monday night to feature in the last world qualifying round for this summer’s Olympics.
“This is the only remaining chance for our pugilists to book a place in Olympics,” Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) Secretary Iqbal Hussain said on Sunday.
Boxers from around the world will chip in these qualifiers scheduled to be held from June 16 to 25.
Iqbal sounded optimistic that at least a couple of Pakistani boxers would be able to make a cut to the Rio. “All our boxers are in a good shape. They have undergone tough training at a camp at Pakistan Sports Complex Islamabad. I am sure the nation will soon hear good news,” he added.
The PBF had set up an extensive training programme for 20 boxers at the camp under national boxing coach Arshad Hussain, an International Boxing Association (AIBA) three-star coach. Arshad was assisted by former international and AIBA one-star coach Nisar Khan. However, seven boxers from different weight categories were selected to represent the country at these qualifiers.
Those vying in the event to fulfill their Olympic dream include Awais Ali Khan (81kg), Mohammad Tanveer (75kg), Amir Khan (69kg), United States-born Umar Cheema (64kg), Ali Ahmed (60kg), Niamatullah (56kg) and Mohammad Asif (52kg).
The 21-year-old Cheema, who has been getting training in Miami, is the first US-born boxer to represent Pakistan in an international event.
If any Pakistani boxer qualifies for Rio Olympics, it will be after a gap of 12 years that the country will have representation in boxing at the world’s most prestigious multi-sports event. Pakistan’s last appearance at Olympics in boxing was in 2004, when five Pakistani boxers featured in various weight categories in Athens. However, none of them could advance to the quarterfinal stage.
Syed Hussain Shah won a bronze medal for Pakistan in boxing in the middleweight division (71 – 75 kg) at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games. He is one of the only two individual Olympic medalists for the country till date.