Pakistani boxer Muhammad Waseem seems to be living Theodore Roosevelt’s quote on “daring greatly” to each letter of it.
The first Pakistani to contest for the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world title, Waseem feels his next target will be to go for another world title soon. Meanwhile he is still recovering from flyweight title campaign against the reigning champion Sunny Edwards, which was marred by biased refereeing on Saturday night at the Duty Free Tennis Stadium in Dubai.
The British boxer Edwards won the fight on points 115-111, 115-111 and 116-110 in the 12-round bout.
The Croydon-based boxer made impressive decisions when it came to containing Waseem and managed to keep his undefeated record intact, while for Waseem, this was the second defeat in his professional career, and that too while challenging for the IBF world title.
Waseem, nicknamed the Falcon, lost his IBF title bout in 2018 to South Africa’s Moruti Mthalane.
But in Dubai this time, the referee’s bias was very visible from the start as the spectators and viewers watching the fight internationally, through online platforms and streaming, could see the excessive number of warning and deduction of points against Waseem.
Waseem had the record of 12 wins with eight knock-outs and just one defeat before the Saturday bout.
He had to make a difficult choice for this bout, and he missed his family especially his two-week-old son as he donned for the fight of his life, hoping to make history, except he had to face opposition from more than one person in the ring on the night.
“The referee was very rude even in the dressing room when he came to see us. I have been vocal about the unfair refereeing,” Waseem told The Express Tribune from Dubai. “I was dominant in the fight but I just feel the decision was unfair. The warnings really threw me off and it just broke my spirit and heart really. It was disturbing.”
Waseem has been a top boxer and technically sound and has won medals for Pakistan at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the World Military Games, but the referee’s warning, mostly observably uncalled for was a bad sight.
The fight itself was not very thrilling either despite a good amount of action in the ring.
“The strategy was to just box the way Sunny boxes, but the referee really disturbed my rhythm. The warnings just kept coming and the fight was getting out of my hands because the points were being deducted. I tried to catch up, but it was just against me,” said Waseem.
He added that he is deciding to stay in Dubai instead of coming back to Pakistan to have come kind of discussion and resolution on Saturday’s fight and the referee’s behavior.
“The referee was a cheater. He was constantly torturing me even before fight, passing strange judgments which he shouldn’t have. Everybody agrees that he was unfair to me. After that fight so many viewers who don’t even know me said that the Falcon should have to won it. People who are experts, like who gave commentary on boxing on YouTube, said it was unfair,” added the Quetta-born boxer.
He confirmed that he will want to go for another fight after observing the holy month of Ramzan and then go for a World Boxing Organisation title after it.
Waseem has the World Boxing Council (WBC) silver belt in flyweight. He won the WBC title for the first time in 2016 and successfully defended it too the same year. He regained it in November 2021, while he is ranked at number one in World Boxing Association rankings.
As for his journey ahead, like the Roosevelt’s quotes go, he is trying to do his best despite the hurdles he has faced being a Pakistani boxer. First, he had to overcome the biases from the Pakistan Boxing Federation officials, who at one point forced him to pay money from his professional bouts. Next, he has seen corruption from the officials first hand and negligence from the federation that forced him to quit amateur boxing and his dream to win an Olympic medal.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” Roosevelt had said in his famous The Man in the Arena speech, and fits so perfectly to Waseem’s endeavours.
This content was originally published here.