DUBAI: Two-time boxing world champion Amir Khan is set to transform boxing in the region after being named president of the newly formed World Boxing Council (WBC) Middle East Boxing Council, and will now oversee the first ever structured boxing governing body with a commitment to developing the sport for future generations.
The WBC president Mauricio Sulaimán announced last month that Khan, who spends long stretches of the year in the Middle East and particularly in Dubai, and senior vice president Tahir (Taz), will spearhead the groundbreaking development of boxing throughout the region under the WBC Middle East Continental Federation that will see flexible and tailored development projects in the individual affiliated countries.
“I’m absolutely thrilled to be appointed as the President of the WBC Middle East Boxing Council by Mauricio and the WBC to head up this incredible and historic project to establish and develop boxing in the region,” Khan said.
The project is very close to Khan’s heart as the late José Sulaimán, the lifetime president of the WBC and Mauricio’s father, expressed his desire to Khan to one day see boxing become established and prosper in the Middle East and the 33-year-old former Olympic silver medalist, with Mauricio’s blessing, will ensure that now becomes a reality.
“It has long been a dream of mine and Mauricio’s father José, who I consider a dear friend, and I’m delighted to bring our vision to reality with the aim of producing great and proud champions from the region, but to also return back to the community with health, welfare, education, through the excellent humanitarian work by the WBC Cares program,” Khan aid. “The groundwork has already started in earnest behind the scenes with Tahir, the vice president, and our team’s drive and determination to see this long-term project through. We’re all relishing the monumental challenge ahead of establishing and building the sport from the ground up.”
Khan has strong ties to the region and in September announced that he will be setting up a base in the UAE to carry out future sporting and business ventures, and will be spending his time between his hometown of Bolton and Dubai. In July of last year, Khan defeated Billy Dib of Australia in four rounds at Jeddah’s King Abdullah Sports City to clinch the vacant WBC international welterweight title.
“We planted the seed with my fight against Billy Dib in Jeddah last year which was an historic moment for the region to be the first Muslim boxer to fight for a title,” he said of fight that took place in front to almost 10,000 mostly Saudi boxing fans. “Now with a WBC Middle East Council coming into operation, it will pave the way for big-name fighters and high-profile events to be staged there and for boxers in the region to have similar opportunities,”
“Winning Olympic silver, world titles and fighting the best of my era has been an unbelievable career, but what we’re going to achieve in the Middle East and the lasting legacy we’ll leave in honor of José, I believe is going to be the ultimate highlight of my career.”
Khan has a long-term, strategic vision for the evolution and advancement of the sport there and believes his considerable experience in every facet of boxing places him in a unique position as he oversees the implementation of the revolutionary plan and to drive it through with his unwavering verve.
The boxer, of Pakistani origin, has experienced everything in his 20 plus years in boxing from the amateur code, where he captured an Olympic silver medal in 2004 at just 17, through to the pros where he won a multitude of titles - including the WBC Silver and International belts – and two World titles, while facing the best pound-for-pound fighters of his generation.
In addition to his ring legacy, Khan has acquired a significant resume which includes heading his own promotional organization and being involved in philanthropic work through the Amir Khan Foundation which aims to improve the lives of millions of disadvantaged children around the world.
To see boxing established in the Middle East has long been an ambition for Khan which he believes is a major market with untapped potential to establish the sport and to stage major championship title fights.
However, Khan's new venture will not solely be focused on big-name fights. Through the hugely successful worldwide WBC Cares initiative, which enables boxing to give back to society, Middle Eastern countries will benefit from the experience and resources to enhance health and fitness, school and education, women’s boxing and tackling major issues health issues such as obesity.
“We are proud and honored to be involved with the WBC as we put all our energies into creating something truly special in the Middle East that generations to come will benefit from,” Tahir said.
“Boxing is becoming increasingly popular in the Middle East, whilst still a new and emerging territory, it is the ideal time for the WBC, the most prestigious of governing bodies, to enter the region and establish a structured governing body,” he added. “Yes, the big fights and getting the Middle East to host exciting, globally recognized events are going to be a huge driving factor, but just as crucial is the growth of the grass roots of the sport and we will pay particular focus on this.”