Ambitious Waseem targets Chocolatito

Rian Scalia
24/11/2016 7:51am

Rian Scalia speaks to Muhammad Waseem, Pakistan’s only professional boxer who is targeting a world title and the scalp of Roman Gonzalez ...

Muhammad Waseem is Pakistan’s only professional boxer. He’s also got a pretty good shot of becoming the country’s first ever world champion.

This Sunday’s fight in Seoul, Korea against the undefeated Filipino Giemel Magramo is a step in that direction. Magramo is ranked number 15 by the World Boxing Council (WBC) and a win over him will likely catapult eighth-ranked Waseem further up the rankings, edging the Pakistani closer to a title shot.

It’s only the 29-year-old’s fifth fight as a professional, yet he’s already gone the twelve-round distance in his previous fight, something that has instilled more confidence in the surging flyweight boxer.

“I had already sparred twelve rounds before in the amateurs and going twelve in a fight has made me even more confident,” he stated. In that fight, Waseem won a lopsided unanimous decision over the Philippines’ Jether Oliva on 17 July in Seoul.

Heading into this contest on 27 November, Magramo will be the best opponent that Waseem has faced as a pro, but the former Pakistan amateur standout isn’t worried.

“I watched some rounds of his fights and I know that I’m going to work hard and give it 100 per cent so I will win easily,” he said, brimming with confidence.

The Pakistani has been training under Jeff Mayweather at the Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas for the last two months. He has sparred around 100 rounds in preparation for this upcoming fight and claims that the move stateside for his training camps has paid dividends.

“The sparring is better there," he explained. "There’s fighters from all over to spar with. I sparred with some Mexicans and a lot of great fighters. I’m in really great shape right now. Jeff Mayweather is a great trainer. Everyone knows him.”

It’s clear that Waseem's amateur pedigree has helped him move quickly in his professional career. Fighting around the world, Waseem won a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, as well as a bronze at the Asian Games the same year. He later turned pro due to a lack of support from the government. That’s something that he hopes he can change by winning a world title.

“In Pakistan, nobody supports fighters. They only support cricket and in turn so does the government. I’m disappointed but I hope winning a world title can help change things for fighters at home.”

If all goes well against Magramo, Waseem and his promoter Andy Kim hope to move quickly and secure a world title shot as soon as possible. One particular name they have in mind is Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez, who many claim is the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. Gonzalez campaigns at super flyweight, one weight up from where Waseem is currently campaigning. But that doesn’t matter to Waseem and Kim.

“I’m ready for a world title right now. I think I’ll become world champion in 2017. We’re going to try and fight Roman Gonzalez. He’s undefeated and the pound-for-pound number one so it’s like a big dream fight for me,” Waseem declared.

Promoter Kim is the man mapping out Waseem’s career. He’s manoeuvred the fighter nicknamed 'Falcon' into the WBC rankings and secured the opportunity to fight for the WBC Silver flyweight title in July.

Kim explained the goal and process of rising Waseem up the ranks. “After this fight he’ll be really high in the WBC rankings and that’s what we’ll work on at the WBC convention next month. We’re targeting next year for a world title but it depends on his performance and what the other promoters want. I think he’s ready,” detailed the Korean promoter.

“Our target is Gonzalez but Waseem can make flyweight or super flyweight comfortably. We’ll do whatever it takes to win a world title. If we have to get the flyweight title first then that’s the route we’ll go. But Gonzalez is the main target,” he further stated.

Right now Waseem is the only fighter that Kim is working with. The promoter feels that Pakistan’s only professional boxer is a real hope to win a world title and that everything should be focused on him, explaining, “I’m focusing everything on Waseem. He’s the only fighter worth supporting because he has a real chance at winning a world title.”

The undefeated fighter gives a lot of credit to Kim, who has given him support that he didn’t have before. “I’m very thankful to Andy Kim as he supports me a lot. I fight all over and I’m a champion with a good record. Nobody wins a Silver title in four fights.”

Despite being Pakistani, Waseem’s home base is South Korea, where he’s fought three of his four bouts. He’s been growing in popularity due to a number of reasons. Korean boxing has seen much better years and he is one of the few if not the only top level international boxers in the country.

Kim described the circumstances behind the surge in popularity of Waseem, saying, “He won the Korean title in his first fight. Then in his fourth fight he won the WBC Silver title. Hardly any Korean boxers have gotten to that level in recent years.”

The Quetta-born fighter has been gradually adjusting to the time change from Las Vegas to Seoul, having arrived on 17 November. Jetlag isn’t something he’s unfamiliar with, though, having travelled the world as an amateur and having made the same trip before his last fight. Minor details and experiences like that from his amateur days are part of why he’s taken to the professional game so quickly.

A win against Magramo will bring Waseem one step closer to the coveted world title shot that he seeks. He may be Pakistan’s only professional boxer but the country couldn’t have picked a better one to represent it.