Boxer creates history in Afghanistan
KABUL – Millions of Afghans watched a German-born Afghan win the country’s first professional men’s boxing match in the capital Kabul today.
Hamid Rahimi beat Tanzanian Said Mbelwa for the World Boxing Organisation Intercontinental middleweight belt.
The match, which would have been banned under Taliban rule, took place amid tight security in the capital.
After the fight, Rahimi described the win as a fresh beginning for the country.
“Today it’s a start,” he said.
“This belt is not mine, this belt is Afghanistan’s, it’s yours. I love you.”
The match was broadcast live, with millions of Afghans across the country reportedly tuning in to watch.
Prominent Afghan figures, including MPs and deputy ministers, watched the fight live at the venue.
Organisers dubbed the bout a Fight 4 Peace and said it was being hosted to make a statement of freedom to take part in sport in a country blighted by war and militancy for decades.
The Taliban banned boxing towards the end of their rule.
Tickets for the fight sold out, attracting interest from fans all over the country. One man said that he had risked a Taliban attack to make the journey from Logar province with his nine-year-old son.
Sabrina Saqib, a female former MP and professional volleyball player, said Afghanistan was eager for a sign of normal life.
”The world always sees Afghanistan through the window of war. So this game changes that. Although this was a fight, this was a fight for peace. […] This is a huge achievement. Afghanistan has a young and talented generation who seek peace and stability,” she said.
Mbelwa, 23, fights in the super-middleweight division and has a record of 31 fights with 19 wins, eight losses and four draws.
Rahimi is six years older than his opponent and has won 20 of his 21 fights.
Ahead of the fight, Mbelwa said that he understood that the occasion was “a very special event for Afghanistan and sent a very important message for the whole world” but vowed to fight as hard as any other match once in the ring.
In the event, he was forced to admit defeat in the seventh round after retreating to his corner with a shoulder injury. (BBC)