Fiji Boxing: Where To From Here
He is an international registered boxing official. Former Fiji resident, Faiyaz Khan currently holds an IBO, WBO and WBF badge for referee and judge.
Based in Auckland, New Zealand where he is a prison instructor at Mt Eden Prison, Khan spoke to LEONE CABENATABUA on his involvement with boxing and also expressed his views on the way forward.
The former RFMF soldier and customs officer at the now Port of Suva is also a JP and is on the verge of retiring after 28 years of service.
Q: When did you first start working with the Boxing Commission of Fiji?
KHAN: I was first invited by the former chairman of BCF Isimeli Cerelala in 2009 to come and upskill some of the referees and judges they had at that time. Quite frankly, they were all former boxers but had little or no knowledge of the universal rules.
I did three clinics, two in Nadi and one in Suva in 2009 and must say those officials today are quite capable of handling hard fights and rough fighters which is a reward in itself.
Q: So honestly speaking what is your view on the state of professional boxing in the country?
KHAN: If professional boxing has to take a leap forward then officials, boxers, promoters and gyms are all to sing from the same book.
Boxing in Fiji was big and can be big again provided resources are given with regular audits taken by the Boxing Commission.
The current legislation needs to be revised and simplified.
For example, professional boxers need not to pay tax unless they have done more than $16,000 worth of work a year.
The other thing is registration of gyms under Boxing Commission of Fiji so that grants, sponsorships and income can be monitored on a yearly basis so that there is no shortage of fighters, programmes and a fare share of fighters getting their fights abroad.
In New Zealand, boxing is so big that a Fiji boxer fills 50 percent of the hall with Fijians from all over. I have New Zealand promoters always asking me for boys from Fiji but at this stage we cannot market our product because we cannot meet the standard that is required. A development plan for four years is necessary so this can be implemented.
The blame game has always been on the party that’s not functioning.
Promoters in the past have cost the sports a lot that’s quite true. Look at the Petero Qica saga, he failed to turn up there was no back-up plan as gyms are not under Boxing Commission of Fiji, no replacement fighter thus fans miss out on an evening of boxing.
Then the blame game, promoter says he did not know, boxer says he told the promoter yet no one tells the Commission the body responsible. All the above need to be addressed, through clinics and seminars, so that an M.O.U can be signed. So the stakeholders work for the same goal, which is promoting the sport for its people and country.
Q: What about boxers?
KHAN: Boxers play an important role in a promotion, once a fighter is signed-up and poster shows he is to fight, his family, friends and workmates are all part of the support crew.
The fighter has to see that he is safe throughout the process, trains well, behaves well in public and gains as much support as possible in order to become a good role model.
But playing games with the promoter or asking for extra money will not get him or her in the next programme as promoters have other things to worry about rather than running around for this person who wants a few hundred dollars or else he won’t show up. These are one of the setbacks of Fiji Boxing which needs to be addressed.
Q: What is the best way forward?
KHAN: The best way forward is a four-year development plan. Implement stages at a time, a full time official for at least 3 to 4 months a year doing a yearly calendar and programme dates almost set months ahead.
All promoters to attend a two- day refresher or clinic and this must be rotated so everyone gets a chance to attend. All promoters need to help one another in all the programmes.
All fighters on a grading system (or ranking) according to their weights so that promoters can see the the cream of the crop. If they want they should have a choice of at least eight boxers from every weight category.
The Boxing Commission of Fiji has to have at least 5 board members all well-versed with international rules from WBF, WBO, IBO, IBF, WBC, WBA and so on. They must all work with the one standard professional rule. At the moment we only operate with a handful of officials and none are qualified to do international bouts.
The present commissioner Mr Usman Ali is under a lot of pressure on bout nights working hard to get the best results for fighters as the shortage issue hits Fiji Boxing.
We need young officials that can pass the required fitness level and be active and well-versed with the laws as been fair is the main job of a referee or judge.
Q: Who do you consider as three of our top boxers?
KHAN: At the moment we have some very good fighters that can do a lot for themselves and for boxing.
Putting Fiji’s name in boxing are fighters like Sebastian Singh. He is young trains well and keeps to his diet requirements, will go well if he keeps this up.
Opeti Tagi though getting a bit over his prime has the class to hold any fighter from whatever he has learned in Fiji. I remember when Opeti fought New Zealand welterweight champ, Gunner Jackson in Auckland some years ago, Gunner said to me if this fellow meaning Tagi is given some good training he would do you Fijians proud.
Franco Fraser is another fighter who with good guidance will go a long way. Very well-focused, who always listen to the officials, I liked refereeing his bouts. I called off his fight against Abhay Chand after the first knock down only because I wanted to protect him from getting hurt. Abhay had hit him with a hard right hand and he just dropped. I counted and stopped the fight because saving an upcoming boxer is better rather than allowing it to go ahead and gets more damage.
Q: For any local boxer who wants to make it big, what 3 things must he have before moving on with his journey?
KHAN: Fighters that want to become someone and get overseas fights must always stay focused on their career. Be the same person, entertain fans and be a good role model.
They must train hard, sleep well, keep away from drinks, grog and other things that do nothing but harm. Be on the side of the promoters and commission so that you can get fights.
Edited by Marika Delai