‘Millions for PSL, nothing for the rest’: Boxer Afridi disappointed ahead of title fight

By
Muneeb Farrukh
Shahir Afridi (second from left) will take part in a fight on March 3 in Bangkok — WBF
Shahir Afridi (second from left) will take part in a fight on March 3 in Bangkok — WBF

KARACHI: Pakistan’s talented Boxer Shahir Afridi is gearing up for the seventh fight of his professional career as he takes on Somphot Seesa for the World Boxing Council (WBC) Asia Middleweight title on March 3 in Bangkok, Thailand.

In his last fight in August 2022, Afridi knocked out India’s Israr Usmani in the first round to retain the Asian Boxing Federation (ABF) Middleweight title. He is yet to lose a match in his professional career and holds a record of 5-0-1.

The 27-year-old, who is known as the Markhor, also serves at the Rapid Response Force of the Sindh Police.

“Whenever there is a big fight, I train for eight weeks which includes morning and evening sessions of two hours, each, daily. IG Sindh Police also sponsored me so that I could train in Bangkok for six weeks,” Afridi said while speaking to GeoSuper.tv in an exclusive interview.

“I’m fully ready for the fight and hopefully I will achieve a good result,” he added.

Afridi was also disappointed for not being able to attract interest from sponsors despite an impressive start to his career.

“Apart from cricket, sponsoring any other sport or athlete is considered a sin in Pakistan. When I defeated the Indian boxer [Israr Usmani], Sindh government and many other individuals promised cash prizes and other rewards but none of that materialised,” he said.

“Meanwhile, multinational companies are solely focused on sponsoring cricketers. To be honest, I have never been sponsored by any company and approaching them only results in insult.

“However, Shahid Afridi Foundation and Mega Stars League have helped me in the past and for that I’m grateful.”

He also took a dig at the private sector for spending millions on the Pakistan Super League (PSL) at a time when athletes from other sports are struggling.

“We don’t even need a very large amount of money. Four to five hundred thousand is enough for travelling and stay but these companies can’t even do that, especially considering the fact that they spend millions on the branding of events like the PSL,” he said.

“A zonal team in Karachi will have 50 sponsors but an Asian Champion doesn’t even have a single one. This is extremely disappointing,” he added.

Afridi also shed light on his goals for the future but reiterated that sponsorship was necessary to achieve his dreams.

“Athletes dream about becoming world champions and I want to do the same. If I get a proper sponsor, I would like to challenge for the WBC Continental title and WBA title while also defending those if I win. I have also set my sights on competing for the world title and Universal Boxing Organisation belt,” he said.

“I want to become a five-star boxer like Amir Khan for instance. I want to be ranked among the top 10 boxers in the world. If someone steps up and supports me, I promise to achieve this feat as well,” he concluded.

Originally published in Geo Super