21 December 2019 saw a huge moment for Indian Boxing when Asad Asif Khan won the IBO Oceania-Orient Feather Title at the Manila Arena in the Philippines.
Asif got his hands on the title after outclassing Aiman Abu Bakar of Malaysia who was undefeated at that time and the top-ranked Malaysian boxer in his weight class with a record of 9-0.
It was a huge moment for Asif and Indian professional boxing in general but the journey towards this title had its fair share of blood and sweat.
Struggles in his early life
Asif comes from a small town in Kolkata called Kidderpore. It is also the place where his journey in boxing started back in 2000 when he was taken into a boxing club in the neighbourhood.
The initial days of his boxing journey were filled with financial struggles but despite this, his family stood by him and supported him in all ways possible. He also got support from his former coach SK Merajuddin Ahmed and his friends who helped him when he needed it the most.
Asif clearly recalls the time when he had no money for buying train tickets to reach the national camp.
Asad Asif Khan: To this day, I remember how one of my friends had lent me money when I desperately needed money to go to the National Camp as I didn't have money to buy a train ticket. I barely had money to get a boxing kit. I would use handovers or buy second-hand equipment. I didn't have money to get in quality nutrition when I was at home.
When he turned 16, he decided to take up boxing seriously and took up a part-time job to meet his financial requirements both for his career and for his home.
This kick-started his run in the amateur boxing circuit. It lasted long nine-years and was a roller coaster ride for him to say the least. Nevertheless, he ended up winning multiple state championships and in 2008; he won a national gold as well.
The Shift to Professional boxing
Although Asif tried his hand in professional boxing back in 2011, the run did not lead to anything major as he suffered two defeats across in the span of two years.
However, 2016 witnessed a huge shift for Asif as his career in professional boxing circuit took off thanks to some help from his current coach Mujtaba Kamal.
Asad Asif Khan: Mujtaba Kamal Sir trained and promoted me in an undercard fight for Mr. Vijender Singh. This gave me a lot of exposure to the professional boxing world.
The fight happened at the Thyagaraj Stadium in New Delhi and Asif secured a unanimous decision win as well. This victory proved to be a huge confidence booster for Asif who soon landed in Super Boxing League where he had an impressive run which further increased his stock.
Asad Asif Khan: Super Boxing League was one of the biggest pro-boxing leagues in our country and I'm lucky that I was a part of it. In this league, I experienced numerous things. I fought with big names, world champions, among others. I beat them which encouraged me a lot.
Asif has been undefeated since his fight in 2016 with 9 wins, one draw and one no-contest. He is currently sitting on seven back to back wins and in his last fight, he got his hands on the IBO Oceania-Orient Feather Title.
The IBO Oceania-Orient Title win and the teamwork
Mujtaba Kamal notes that the title win of Asif is a huge moment for India and the professional boxers in the nation.
At the same time, this was a huge moment for Kamal as well. Prior to being a coach, Kamal was a boxer himself and had dreamt of winning the Asian and World title. Unfortunately for Kamal, he couldn’t achieve this but he is now rewarded through the win of Asif and a string of other talented boxers that he coaches and manages today.
The title win of Asif also reflects on the teamwork that went behind the scenes. Kamal, along with fellow coach and matchmaker Bharat had created a special training routine for Asif prior to the fights so that he could overcome the hurdles posed by a knuckle injury that he picked up during his amateur career.
In addition to this, the team also got support from Jose Mohan, who is a manager and promoter based out of Dubai with roots in India. Jose states that he is extremely happy with the achievement of Asif and sees bigger and better things for the future.
The future is bright
Asif is currently ranked first in India according to BoxRec for Featherweight category and has a global ranking of 248 which is impressive for an Indian boxer.
As someone who has been in the Indian professional boxing circuit for a long time, Asif believes that boxing has a bright future in the country both at amateur and at a professional level.
Asad Asif Khan: Lately, there have been significant changes in pro-boxing. India is performing well on the world stage. BFI is also giving more opportunities and supporting its athletes. I'm sure in the near future this sport will grow with the help and ideologies of people like Mujtaba Kamal sir.
As far as his career is concerned, the IBO Oceania-Orient title is only the start for him. He has his eyes set on the World Title.
Asad Asif Khan: It was one of my biggest dreams to win a title. I believe this is just the beginning and there is a long way to go for me to make my country proud. Most importantly the biggest goal of my life is to become a world boxing champion in pro-boxing.