IF in need of additional motivation ahead of his fight against Sunny Edwards this Saturday (March 19), the birth of Muhammad Waseem’s first child would have provided precisely that. It wasn’t exactly needed, this motivation, but it arrived two weeks from fight night and left the flyweight from Pakistan feeling not only excited about the future but even more desperate to provide for his child and his wife, whom he has not seen now for two months.
Suffice it to say, Waseem, 12-1 (8), doesn’t need to be asked what drives him prior to challenging Edwards. Nor does he currently want to think too much about being a father, at least not until he’s completed his job as a fighter. “This is the boxing life and you have to make sacrifices,” he told Boxing News. “I’ve been away from my family for more than two months. My wife was pregnant and she was a little bit sick, and also my dad was sick. But this is boxing. When you’ve got a good opportunity, you have to make sacrifices and do your best job and do it for your family. This is a world title for my family and for myself.
“When I saw the baby, that was an unbelievable feeling for me. I can’t explain the motivation. I’m now always thinking about success and the win.”
To get the win, and to beat the number two-ranked flyweight in the world and take home the IBF strap, Waseem must solve the riddle that is Sunny Edwards this Saturday in Dubai. It’s a fight that has flown under the radar somewhat, but one that carries no small amount of intrigue, particularly given the undercurrent of needle that has gradually emerged.
“He talks too much, but he’s just a normal fighter,” Waseem said. “He beat [Moruti] Mthalane, yeah, but I fought Mthalane in 2018 and dropped him in the 11th round. I should have won the fight but they didn’t give me the decision. No problem. This is boxing. That day he was lucky. But Sunny then fought him three years later and Mthalane was not the same.
“Sunny’s not a big puncher. He moves and runs like a chicken. I know how to catch him and have a very good plan for him. On the 19th of March he will feel something different. I know how to handle this fight. He won’t be a problem for me.”
It’s hard to pinpoint the root of the tension between these two flyweights but Waseem recalls once sparring Edwards in Glasgow and said of the experience, “We sparred six or eight rounds and he left. He never came again to spar.” Waseem is also keen to hammer home that his experience, as both an amateur and pro, trumps that of Edwards and that, for him, this is a fight like any other.
“My boxing career is better and my amateur career was more successful than his,” he said. “In 2014, I won a Commonwealth Games silver medal [after winning bronze in 2010] and an Asian Games bronze medal. Big medals. As a professional, when I had my debut fight, I fought for a [South Korean bantamweight] title in a 10-rounder. From the start I have taken very big challenges and fought good opponents. For me, this fight is just a normal fight. I have faced tougher and better fighters than Sunny. I know I’m going to beat him.
“There’s no pressure on me. The pressure is on him. I don’t like to talk a lot before the fight. I’m not that kind of person. I just do my best and have trained very hard for this. I show my skills and how good I am in the ring.
“I don’t feel 100 per cent certain I will win this fight. I feel 1,000 per cent certain I will win this fight. I feel strong, my weight is okay, and I have prepared myself correctly. I have never trained as hard as I have for this fight. He talks about me and he disrespects me and my trainer [Danny Vaughn], and this is very, very good motivation for me to show how great I am and show him I am a better fighter than him.”
If it all comes together for the “Falcon” on the night, and if he adds the first blemish to Edwards’ 17-fight unbeaten record, Waseem will become a major belt-holder but Pakistan’s first. “It will be an amazing feeling for me and my country,” he said. “I will make history in this region. It’s a massive thing for me and it’s another thing that motivates me and has pushed me in training.”
More than just a life-changing moment for Waseem, a victory over Edwards could also be extremely beneficial for the future of the sport in his homeland. Pakistan has, after all, formerly been a hotbed for amateur talents, yet a sleeping giant in terms of professional success.
“A long time ago, from ’86 to 2006, the AIBA [Amateur International Boxing Association] president was Anwar Chowdhry from Pakistan,” Waseem, 34, explained. “During that time in Pakistan amateur boxing was very good. It was top level. We won medals at the World Championships, the Asian Games, and the Commonwealth Games. But not in professional boxing. I am the first professional fighter to achieve these big title opportunities.
“Now, after me, when I go back to my country, a lot of youngsters want to come and box. When you go to my city, in Quetta, you’ll find more than 4,000 fighters there now, and a lot of gyms. But we still don’t have the platform for professional boxing… After me, boxing will start to be promoted very good in Pakistan, I hope.”