A legend in distress
He was Pakistan’s national boxing champion in 1970. The same year he represented his country at the Asian Games in Bangkok and won a silver medal.
The next year he was in South Korea taking part in the Asian Boxing Championship, where he won the gold medal. While there, he participated in a Korea-Pakistan boxing series and beat all of his opponents. At the Munich Olympics in 1972 he stood fourth.
However, this brief lean patch was soon over when in 1973 he again won the gold medal at the Hilali Cup in Colombo. A bronze medal at the Tehran Asian Games (1974) was followed by regaining the gold-winning streak at the first RCD Boxing Championship in Ankara. The same year, in the same country (Istanbul, this time) another gold medal awaited him.
At the 1977 Asian Boxing Championship in Jakarta he stood second (silver medal) and tasted one of his last gold medal grabbing successes at the National Championship on his home soil. Are all of these mean accomplishments? No, by any stretch of the imagination! You would’ve thought that this pugilist, with such an unbelievable track record, must have been worth his weight in gold in his country. Sadly, that’s not the case.
In case you’re wondering, who this boxer is, well his name is Jan Muhammad Baloch. He lives in Lyari, Karachi, with 10 children, one girl being polio-stricken, barely scraping through in life. Pity the nation that doesn’t honour its heroes.
Jan Muhammd Baloch was born in 1950 in Lyari. At a very early age in his life he began receiving training as a boxer, a sport that he was fond of from childhood. It took the young athlete no more than a few years to take part in national championships and soon turned into a name to be reckoned with. He started winning bouts at the lower level and then graduated to the professional stage and became the national champion. In 1970 he participated in his first international boxing tournament, and from then on he never looked back.
Baloch, who modeled himself on the legendary American boxer Mohammad Ali, remained invincible in his country for more than a decade. Once he took off the gloves, the reality (that society was a fair-weather friend) sunk in. These days he is desperately seeking employment for his grown-up sons, because the gym that he runs in Lyari isn’t enough to fulfill the rigorous requirements of life.
Though he was a national coach between 1982 and 2002 and was once even employed by the Pakistan Navy, the jobs didn’t help him have any sort of material contentment.
“I’m not an educated person, and this has been the reason for my woes. All I’m requesting the authorities concerned is to help in getting my sons decent employment. It’s not that I haven’t had my share of benefactors. Munir Husain (the famous Urdu cricket commentator) has helped me a great deal in my career. But these days I’m helpless. And I don’t ask anything for myself. It’s my children that I’m worried about,” says the boxer.
This is what Jan Muhammad Baloch has to say about the current state of the sport that he represents Pakistan: “Boxing is heading towards disaster. Cuban coaches have lost their effectiveness. They hire Cubans because they’re inexpensive. But in the last Olympics they didn’t do well. God has given all to us, Pakistanis. It’s just that there aren’t people to lend a helping hand to us and foster our talent. There are no jobs for boxers. The kind of money that different federations get for the sport doesn’t bring out the required results.”
It all sounds sad, but true.