Pakistani boxer Muhammad Waseem, also called 'Falcon' for his swift boxing style, has topped the World Boxing Association's (WBA) flyweight division list for the first time in four years.
Waseem's ranking improved after he beat Colombia’s Robert Barrera in Dubai last month and won the WBA flyweight title eliminator fight. He also won the World Boxing Council (WBC) silver flyweight title in the process for a second time.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Waseem said he had trained in tough conditions in Scotland and Dubai to prepare for the fight against Barrera. His last professional fight was against Jeny Boy Boca from the Philippines in 2020 at the Punjab Governor House in Lahore.
"Before the showdown, I was ranked fourth in the flyweight division category and Alhamdulliah (praise be to Allah), I have now moved to the top spot," said the elated athlete.
Saying that he was the first Pakistani to have won the WBA flyweight title eliminator fight, he dubbed his win a "big thing".
"No other Pakistani has ever achieved this before," he said, adding that before claiming the two titles in Dubai, he had won just one other title. "But now, I hold two titles at the same time."
He, however, had a grievance.
Waseem complained that cricket was the only sport in Pakistan that received support from the country's politicians while other sports were ignored.
"It feels amazing to win, but at the same time I feel sad that nobody is ready to support us [in Pakistan]," he said.
"Cricket is hardly played in 10 to 12 countries and yet when a cricketer is ranked at the top, everyone goes crazy." On the other hand, boxing is a sport played in more than 200 countries, he said.
"It is very, very tough to get to the top in any weight category, and yet, when someone from [Pakistan] reaches the top spot, nobody notices,” he added.
The boxer, though, was thankful to the Pakistan Army, which he said had supported him at all times.
“Only the army respects and supports us. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa called me two days ago. He met me and we talked about several things. I told him that I want to defend my titles at home, at which Bajwa sahib promised me that the army would organise the fights here.”
Waseem had earlier topped the WBA's flyweight division list in 2017 after winning the WBC silver flyweight title. According to the WBA's website, the 34-year-old now has a record of 12 wins, one loss and eight knockouts.