Inaugural Event Featuring British & Irish Boxers Raises 8 Million PKR For Charity.
It may have only been 4:30 in the morning, but the heat was stifling as the Emirates A340-300, that carried the contingent of international boxers and officials from the British & Irish Boxing Authority (BIBA) that were to take part in a charity pro boxing event promoted by two Division World Champion Amir Khan just two days later, made it’s final approach into Karachi Quaid-E-Azam International Airport in Pakistan.
The pugilists and officials on-board flight EK 0604 from Dubai last Tuesday couldn’t have had the slightest inkling of the reception they were going to receive, not just on arrival but also over the following three days, if they did they hid it well.
As the group exited the plane and headed towards passport control along with their fellow passengers, a squad of security officers singled them out, and instead of joining the seemingly never ending conga of exhausted passengers, that were aimlessly shuffling between the rope barriers, they were lead to a security desk far removed from the passport control booths.
Normally this scenario would cause concern to a traveler, however from that moment on it became crystal clear to all those in the party that this was not the normal welcome an international traveler would receive, not by a long shot, this was the reception reserved only for the most important of VIPs.
After clearing passport control in record time and with the security detail flanking them the boxers and officials were greeted by the ever smiling Tahir Khan and his team from Khan Promotions and led to a convoy of awaiting vehicles.
Heading up the convoy was an army truck containing a team of heavily armed Rangers, under the command of the highly decorated Captain Abbas, and to the rear another heavily armed vehicle, this time a Police truck, again with a heavily armed squad aboard.
Once all aboard the team were escorted at high speed through the streets of Karachi to the palatial 5 Star Pearl-Continental hotel, where even though having an army and police escort each vehicle was checked thoroughly by the hotel security team.
Once clearing the security gate the BIBA team were lead into the opulent foyer, which was close to the dimensions of a premiership football pitch, where each received the key cards to their stately rooms.
Whilst some went straight to their beds for some much deserved sleep, BIBA CEO and Executive Vice President Gianluca Di Caro and World Boxing Union (WBU) Super Flyweight World Champion Tasif Khan received their media itinerary for the coming days, which started just 90 minutes later, where they were to join Amir Khan as studio guests of the highly popular radio City FM89 Morning Show host Khalid Malik, for those in the UK think Chris Evans level of popularity and double it.
Following the thirty minute segment with Khalid Malik, Amir and Gianluca were then spirited to a local TV news studio for further interviews before returning to the sumptuous Pearl-Continental for lunch.
Following lunch, Amir was joined by his father, Shah, Liverpool’s Dayle Gallagher, who was one of the boxers on the event and BIBA’s Gianluca Di Caro to be part of a thirty minute interview, hosted by the exquisite Anoushey Ashraf for her hugely popular chat show.
Just an hour or so later Gianluca and Dayle were joined by Amir’s brother Haroon ‘King’ Khan, WBU Champ Tasif Khan, Preston Cruiserweight Stuart Maddox, Belfast’s Phil Townley, World class referee Richie Davies and coach Stephen Speed in the lobby, ahead of another escorted trip across Karachi, this time for a meet and greet at the Dolmen Mall in Clifton.
None of the group could possibly have been prepared for the reception that awaited them, as literally thousands of fans crammed into the huge three level American style shopping mall, each and every one of them greeted the boxers and officials as if they were the biggest of Hollywood stars.
Once in the Greenhill prepared show ring each was inundated for requests of selfies or to pose for photos for a good thirty minutes or so before the star attraction himself, Mr. Amir Khan made his entrance to rapturous applause and cheers.
After Amir had finished his personal greeting to the assembled fans he was joined by Haroon, Tasif, Dayle and Stuart at the front table to sign autographs and pose for selfies with the fans, whilst Phil Townley, Richie Davies, Stephen Speed and Gianluca Di Caro moved around the ring posing for selfies with the overwhelmingly welcoming fans.
Once the meet and greet was over, Amir and the BIBA entourage were escorted at high speed back to the Pearl-Continental, to have a quick shower and change ahead of another special event, where Amir opened the majestic new Tai-Pan Chinese restaurant and each and everyone of the BIBA team were special guests also.
The following morning, whilst Amir and his father Shah were being interviewed live on the Geo Morning Show, BIBA Chief Inspector Stephen Smith and Scunthorpe Cruiserweight Jody Meikle had arrived at Karachi Airport, where they too received the full VIP treatment including the high speed Army and Police escort.
Shortly after lunch Amir, his team, the Boxers and BIBA officials made the short walk to the Zaver conference hall at the Pearl-Continental for the press conference.
To outside observers it must have seemed that the press conference was for the biggest of the World Championship contests, as there were so many TV crews and media in attendance as well as a host of dignitaries.
After Amir had made his presentation about the event, the Amir Khan Trust and it’s aims, he opened up the floor for questions, whilst most were about the event one of the journalists put him on the spot by asking, “as it was announced today that professional boxers can now box at the Olympics would he be representing Pakistan in Rio” Amir diplomatically answered that it would be an honour, but he has contractual obligations with his promoter to consider, before adding, that whilst he would love to represent Pakistan in Rio, that he really believes that the opportunity should be there for a young fighter, as it was such an honour when he had been presented the opportunity to compete in the Olympics for Great Britain, when he was just seventeen and that was the springboard for his professional career, as it would be for any Pakistani boxer that competed at Rio 2016.
As with every media event the BIBA contingent were treated as if they were major World stars with each being interviewed and photographed by the media.
After a quick meal Amir and the BIBA team were once more escorted at high speed by the army and police across Karachi to a public workout at Frere Hall in Clifton.
Once again there were so many media, along with thousands of fans in attendance as the boxers individually entered the ring for the workout, after which each was inundated with media interview requests and selfies with the fans.
This event was so popular that it overran by quite a margin and it would not be until just after 11pm that Amir and the fighters etc finally were escorted back to the Pearl-Continental.
With just the single media event on Thursday, as it was fight night, Amir and the boxers gathered at the elegant venue for the seriously swanky dinner event at the Pearl-Continental Marquee Conference Hall for a media photo opportunity.
The BIBA fighters, who had all been presented with team outfits courtesy of Khan Promotions sponsor Greenhill, happily posed for individual shoots as well as group photos with Amir.
After the shoot the team had a couple of hours to chill or grab a bite to eat before the big night, well most of them, as Tahir and Gianluca still had work to do.
The night started with Amir making a speech and a presentation of the Amir Khan Trust project to raise the money to build water wells in the region of Thar, an area that has been described as the poorest in the World.
Originally there were to be four professional bouts, however that was not to be as prior to leaving the UK Haroon picked up an injury. To make matters worse just days before the fight Tasif’s opponent Francis Croes tore a ligament in his arm, forcing him to pull out.
Some quick calls from Tahir see a female amateur bout, featuring two seventeen year old friends from Lyari, Saira and Ambreen being added to the bill and opening the show
Before the pro fights though the important matter of raising funds for Amir Khan Trust, firstly from donations and then through an auction of Amir’s personal belongings, such as signed shorts, gloves, paintings, posters etc
Both were a massive success, with the Amir Khan Trust receiving donations that amounted to the equivalent of twenty much needed water wells and the auction itself incredibly raising close to 8 Million PKR.
The historic first pro boxing bout to take place in Pakistan featured Liverpool’s unbeaten Dayle Gallagher against Belfast’s Phil Townley in a four round Middleweight contest.
Officiating the contest was no less than World renowned Referee Richie Davies.
Right from the off the two protagonists went to war, the experienced Irishman going straight on the attack, the Liverpool youngster kept his cool and got behind his jab to keep the ever advancing Phil Townley at bay.
Dayle, initially taking a controlled countering approach, then proceeded to showcase his exceptional skills against his much more experienced opponent, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t all one way traffic but the Liverpool youngster put on a sublime controlled performance that belied his tender years.
After four superb exciting rounds of boxing Referee Richie Davies declared the bout 40-37 in favour of Dayle Gallagher.
The second pro bout of the night, see Scunthorpe’s Jody Meikle in action against Preston’s Stuart Maddox in a four round Cruiserweight contest.
What an intense closely fought contest, both protagonists went at it with gusto, much of the time it could have been fought in a phone booth as they stood toe to toe slugging it out.
After four rounds of pugilistic action Referee Richie Davies scored the bout 39-36 in favour of Stuart Maddox, which whilst without doubt correct doesn’t project just how close a fight this was.
Finally singers Bilal Saeed and Adeel Chaudhry performed sensational live sets as the guest enjoyed their sumptuous dinners.
Speaking after the event, Amir Khan said
“First of all I want to say thank you to all the lads that took part, they are all winners in my eyes, flying out here to Pakistan and fighting here, even Tasif, who didn’t get to fight, as his opponent Francis Croes was injured the day before he was due to fly over, however Tasif still came here and has been part of all the build up to this big fight, because he could have stayed in the hotel and not done anything, he’s got family here in Pakistan but he said no, he wanted to stay with the team.
This is what Boxing brings, we’re like one big family, you know we all stay together.
I’m so glad I’ve done this in Pakistan, because it’s opened a new door for me to do more boxing events. I’m definitely going to do it again with BIBA, I’d love to come back to Pakistan and give Pakistan the fights they want.
Tonight’s event raised a good amount of money for a place called Thar, the reason I am doing it here is because Thar is rated one of the poorest regions in the World. The Government don’t help the place and nobody talks about this place.
Kids are dying, thousands of kids are dying every month you know there’s no clean water, it’s like a desert, we are going to provide water wells, it doesn’t cost that much but will save so many lives and that will make me so happy, so I am doing this for them. I’ve enjoyed doing the boxing event, so we can build these wells, the reason we and the boxers flew over from England is for the people of Thar.
It shows a lot of balls these fighters and officials to come over here, because the media implies that Pakistan is not a safe place to visit, but these boys have shown balls by coming and fighting here to help me to raise money for the people of Thar.
Not just that but it’s all about doing these promotional events and putting on these fights in order to introduce a new sport, professional boxing, to Pakistan. This will motivate all the kids to go to the gymnasiums and our academies, so it works in many ways.”
Amir then went on to thank the companies and individuals that got behind the historic event.
“I would like to thank HBL for being the lead sponsor of the HBL Superstar Boxing Event, IRIS Event Management, Reema Siddiqui, Omar Satti and Xenith PR for putting together such a great event, BIBA for bringing international boxers to Pakistan, The 42 – Day Challenge and Phegency PR for the public workout event, Hashoo Group, J.Fragrances, Greenhill, National, Dolmen, Red Crescent, BlueEX, Careem, City FM89, FHM and last but not least the Rangers for their support.”
Final word has to go to BIBA’s CEO & Executive Vice President Gianluca Di Caro.
“I cannot begin to express how much I admire and respect Amir, throughout the many media events not only has he given his time so freely to sign autographs or have his photo taken with the fans, but still found the time to spend an extraordinary amount of time meeting with sponsors and dignitaries to ensure the event successfully went ahead.
Amir’s passion for the project has been infectious, so much so that every single one of the boxers and officials that came over have already committed themselves to help raise further funds for the Amir Khan Trust, in fact Dayle Gallagher donated his purse for the night, Stuart Maddox has asked that £100 from each of his future purses go to the AKT and Stephen Speed is paying for one of the wells to be built, and as an organisation we are going to raise funds at every future event we sanction.
I also have to say I am overwhelmed by the reception we have received here in Karachi, I have never experienced anything like this in my life, I will treasure the memories of my time here, I have loved every second of it, I have met so many wonderful people here and have to say the fans at the Dolmen Mall and the public workout at Frere Hall were amazing.
I would like to say a very special thanks to Captain Abbas and his team of Rangers and the Sindh Police for looking after us so well on the special events away from the hotel and also Dr Muzzummil Pervaiz and the Pakistan Red Crescent, who provided the medical coverage for the team, as well as to, Arshad Nazeer and Imran Khan from the Pearl-Continental Marco Polo Restaurant and Pearl-Continental’s Director of Food and Beverages Mr. Muhammad Aslam Khan for their exceptional hospitality and introducing us to some fantastic local delicacies.
I just hope that our being here will open the door to more International sportspeople coming to Pakistan to compete, as well as hope that people from around the world come and visit Pakistan, it’s a beautiful country and the people here are so friendly and welcoming, I know I can’t wait to come back again and will do so in the near future for sure.”
For further information on the Amir Khan Foundation (UK) and the Amir Khan Trust (Pakistan) please go to www.amirkhanworld.com
This event is sanctioned by the British & Irish Boxing Authority (BIBA). For further information please go to www.boxbiba.com