KARACHI: A few days after the legendary American boxer Mohammad Ali passed away, Younus Qambrani of the Pak Shaheen Boxing Club received an interesting phone call.
A young girl named Razia Abdul Aziz had looked him up on the internet and wanted to know if he would be willing to teach her how to box with the 10 other girls he trained at his club.
Mr Qambrani has been teaching Lyari’s youth how to box since 1994 and started to train girls in the sport last year.
“When she called me she was worried about the fees but I told her that I train girls free-of-cost,” he said, adding that Razia was one of the most hardworking and enthusiastic students he had.
According to Mr Qambrani, Razia trains seven days a week for an hour or more. In just a few months, he said, she had advanced fantastically.
Razia, 19, told Dawn, that her dream was to become a professional boxer and represent Pakistan at the Olympics. “I don’t just want to participate, I want to win gold,” she said.
According to Razia, her English language teacher at the House of Modern English inspired her to become a boxer. “My teacher is a great boxer and an amazing teacher. He really inspired me,” she said.
“I was always very interested in sports but did not have the opportunity to do so. When I tried playing cricket in college people thought it was strange,” she added.
“Training at this club and boxing is a great opportunity for me and I will not let it go to waste. I will train and give it my best,” she said.
Nearly a month ago, Razia’s mother, Halima, joined her at the club — something that no woman in her neighbourhood of Lyari dared to do before.
“My daughter, Razia, started training at the club a few months ago and last month I decided that I wanted to try it out as well,” she said.
“Razia came up to me one day and asked if she could learn how to box — I said if that is what you want then go for it.”
“When I joined I wanted to do this just for the physical fitness. I thought I would come here for PT and then go home but with encouragement from the coach I decided that I would learn the sport,” she added.
Talking to Dawn, Halima said that she knew she was not as fast as the other girls Razia trained with or learning at the same pace.
“I started learning slowly and give it as much time as I can. Although I never wanted to be a professional boxer, I have decided that in the future I want to become a referee,” she said.
“Her father used to love boxing and Mohammad Ali was one of his all time favourites,” said Razia’s mother. “When he was alive we used to watch boxing matches and other sports together all the time.”
To ensure that the mother and daughter learn all the tricks of the sport, the coach makes them spar together.
“At first it was difficult, but then we realised that if we don’t punch each other or hurt each other someone else will and this is part of the sport,” they said.
Talking about her relationship with her daughter, Halima said that she feels boxing has brought them closer together.
“She has a very set routine — she wakes up at Fajr, has something to eat then goes to work, then comes to train, then rushes to the coaching centre to study. Finally she comes home around 8pm or so to pray, eat and sleep,” said Halima.
“Since we started boxing together we make it a point to not miss training at the club and always talk a little about boxing before going to sleep,” she added.