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Boxing in Afghanistan- Then (2012) and Now (2017)
Pictured: the current flag of Afghanistan

On February 24, 2012, in the main event of a card held in Hamburg, Germany, Afghan-born Hamid Rahimi stopped Ruslan Rodzivich in the 8th round to win the vacant World Boxing Union (Germany-based version) world middleweight title. While winning a "fringe" world title may not be viewed as a "big deal", in war-ravaged Afghanistan, Rahimi's win over Rodzivich was viewed as heroic.

Soon after his victory, Rahimi returned to Kabul and was welcomed with a well-attended parade in his honor. The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, presented him with the Mir Masjidi Khan Medal, an award named after a decorated Afghan war hero and people of Afghanistan, proud of Rahimi's accomplishment, expressed their desire to see him fight in their country.

Rahimi returned to Kabul to fight on Afghanistan's first professional boxing card on October 30, 2012. The event was ambitiously billed as "Fighting for Peace." Rahimi was originally scheduled to fight former WBO Europe middleweight champion Rafael Bejaran but by the time the bout took place, he found himself matched with Tanzanian veteran Said Mbwela with the vacant WBO Inter-Continental title up for grabs. Rahimi won by TKO at 0:17 of the seventh round.

The momentum created by Rahimi's two victories in 2012 stalled as he fought only two more times, both in Germany. He outpointed Aliaksei Vouchan in 2013 and stoppped former Global Boxing Union world super middleweight champion Bronislav Kubin in 2014.

Rahimi spent 25 months (March 2012 through November 2014) as a WBO top 15 contender with 17 of those months spent in the top ten. He peaked at #6, a spot he held for six months (January 2013 through June 2013). Before he hung up his gloves, Rahimi compiled a record of 23-1 with 11 wins by knockout. However, his absence from the sport left Afghans with no readily-identifiable role models in professional boxing.

According to BoxRec, there are only two fighters born in Afghanistan active today- 19-year-old welterweight Kudura Kaneko, who fights in Japan, and 25-year-old welterweight Zafar Azizi, whose only bout to date took place in the United Arab Emirates.

That may change if Waheedullah Hameedi succeeds in establishing a national boxing commission for Afghanistan. While there is tremendous interest in boxing in the still war-torn nation, there is, as Mr. Hameedi laments, "a lack of necessary equipment, professional trainers and other facilities." He proudly notes that despite the odds being against them, Afghan amateur pugilists have had surprising success mainly because of their determination and hard work.

Mr. Hameedi and his foundation (the HAMEEDI Group Foundation) are in the process of building a commission center which will include a modern stadium, offices for the administrative staff of the commission, offices for trainers, conference rooms, and a state-of-the-art training area for both the national men's and women's teams. Mr. Hameedi and the HGF are hoping to secure affiliations with professional boxing organizations to help advance professional boxing in Afghanistan.

It may seem simplistic but it's true. The more successful boxing and other sports are in Afghanistan, the less influential the Taliban becomes.
Article By: Ken Pollitt