Sage Northcutt returns against Andrew Holbrook at UFC in New Jersey

Sage Northcutt returns against Andrew Holbrook at UFC in New Jersey

Sage Northcutt will get one more fight before he’s no longer a teenager when he takes on Andrew Holbrook at FOX UFC Fight Night in Newark, N.J. on Jan. 30.

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Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Sage Northcutt will get one more fight before he’s no longer a teenager when he takes on Andrew Holbrook at FOX UFC Fight Night in Newark, N.J. on Jan. 30.

The 19-year-old prospect has been ultra-busy since making his debut at UFC 192 in October and following his win last week over Cody Pfister, Northcutt requested one more bout before he turns 20 in March.

The UFC granted his wish, and now Northcutt will return in January while looking to improve to 3-0 inside the Octagon.

Northcutt has finished his first two fights in impressive fashion, with a TKO victory in his debut before submitting Pfister with a guillotine choke last Thursday in Las Vegas.

He’ll face his stiffest test to date in January as he faces Holbrook, who is 11-0 during his career after making his UFC debut in July

Holbrook eked out a close decision over Ramsey Nijem in a fight he accepted on short notice, and now he’ll fight on the main card on FOX in January with a chance to take out a rising star in Northcutt.

Northcutt vs. Holbrook joins the upcoming FOX UFC Fight Night card in Newark with a light heavyweight bout between Anthony “Rumble” Johnson and Ryan Bader headlining the show.

For-Manny-Pacquiao-its-about-getting-chance-to-win-not-the-money

For Manny Pacquiao, it’s about getting a chance to win, not the money

For Manny Pacquiao, it wasn’t about winning the business deal.

It was about proving he was the better fighter.

Pacquiao cut his losses in negotiations to secure a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. So on Saturday night, fittingly in Las Vegas, the gamble Pacquiao made gives him a chance to go all in and win the legacy bout, with all the high-rollers and the world watching.

“If my concern is myself alone, the fight is hard to make happen,” said Pacquiao, who accepted a 60%-40% purse split in Mayweather’s favor. “I didn’t want 60-40. I did it for the sake of the fans. We know they’ve been waiting for this fight for five years.”

When the buzz first started about this super-fight, it was Pacquiao who was No. 1 in boxing’s mythical pound-for-pound rankings. But the fighters’ swapped spots, as Mayweather (47-0, 26 knockouts) kept winning while Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs) suffered a December 2012 knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez.

Rated as the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, Manny Pacquiao was already called the best boxer in the 2000s. At the age of 35 with a record of 56 wins, five losses and two ties, Pacquiao shows no sign of slowing down.

Pacquiao’s professional boxing career started in 1995 and he boxed primarily in the Philippines until 2001. In his 2001 debut in the United States against Lehlohonolo Ledwaba of South Africa, Pacquiao won by TKO in six rounds.

Before facing Mexico’s Erik Morales in March 19, 2005, in Las Vegas, Pacquiao had not lost since September 1999. Morales won by unanimous decision to take the WBC international super featherweight title.

Ten months later, Pacquiao faced Erik Morales again. Pacquiao knocked Morales out in the 10th round. It was the first time Morales was knocked out in his boxing career.

Pacquiao trades punches with David Diaz during their WBC lightweight championship boxing match June 28, 2008, in Las Vegas. Pacquiao won by knockout in the ninth round.
That loss made the already problematic negotiations between the Mayweather and Pacquiao camps all the more difficult. Previously, they’d had major disputes over drug-testing, the purse cut and personal feuds.

After Pacquiao lost, Mayweather was quick to dismiss him as a possible opponent by saying the Filipino first had to finish his business with Marquez, who won in their fourth fight.

But Pacquiao, 36, responded with three convincing victories over younger men, including a unanimous decision over Timothy Bradley that avenged a controversial loss to Bradley in 2012 because of bad judging. Pacquiao then set a personal record by knocking down Chris Algieri six times last November in a lopsided decision in China.

As he concluded training for Algieri, Pacquiao was asked about the Mayweather side saying it would require accepting a 60-40 split to get the fight made.

“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Pacquiao said without pause. “No problem.”

Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum said negotiations started at an even steeper disadvantage, with Mayweather’s representative proposing a 65-35 split.

“Manny truly believes money isn’t everything, and you can’t be cheated when money isn’t everything,” Arum said. “He was willing to sacrifice points to make the fight. Simple as that. He wanted the fight.”

Arum, who’s been brokering fight deals since the 1960s, said, “Obviously, I pushed back” from the 65-35 talk, “but it went on for weeks.”

Friction between Arum and his former fighter Mayweather, along with the promoter’s strong influence on Pacquiao, were considered as major reasons the fight would never happen.

In my mind, I didn’t think I’d be a good boxer. All that was really in my mind was to earn a kilo of rice.
– Manny Pacquiao, on his humble beginnings as a fighter
“Some can paint me as a Svengali who dictates what to do to Manny, but it’s not the truth. I stayed in this business so long by taking directions, and getting approval, from athletes,” Arum said. “If Manny wants to take a ridiculously low percentage, it’s his career and his life. … We settled for this because Manny was willing to.

“Whether it was a smart decision or a stupid decision, it’s a decision he and I will live with.”

Of course, given the historic scope of this fight, both boxers will earn unheard-of sums for their bout Saturday. Together they could earn more than $300 million for what should be a record pay-per-view bout, with a possible $100 million for Pacquiao.

Pacquiao’s first memories of boxing also center on money.

He still remembers how, as a poverty-stricken child, his uncle showed him VHS tapes of boxing matches featuring Larry Holmes, Mike Tyson, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr., the Ruelas brothers and more.

At age 11, when Pacquiao used to sell doughnuts and other items on the street to help pad his family’s income, his uncle led him to a Sunday boxing contest. The young boy was surprised to learn that he’d been entered into the competition.

“I was excited, like, ‘What’s this?’ ” Pacquiao said.

He won a three-round decision and was given 100 pesos for the triumph — two dollars — and split the money with his uncle while giving the rest to his mother for groceries.

“Fifty pesos, that was big,” Pacquiao said. “Six pesos was a kilo of rice. I was thinking, ‘This is good for everybody.’ I was selling doughnuts, whatever I can sell … but boxing was one day of some work and you earn more money.

“My teacher saw me come in a little bruised up one day and told me, ‘Maybe you become Flash Elorde [the late former featherweight world champion from the Philippines].’ ”

Little did they know …

Pacquiao said when he was watching those fight videos, seeing the legendary men fighting in packed venues, his uncle imagined aloud: “What if you could get like that? In a building like that?”

“I loved boxing because it helped my mother,” Pacquiao said. “In my mind, I didn’t think I’d be a good boxer. All that was really in my mind was to earn a kilo of rice.”

Pacquiao became a pro at 16 and fought 43 fights, almost all in the Philippines, before his first bout in the U.S. in 2001. His furious fighting style, an ability to knock out bigger men and his winning titles at various weight classes made him an international star.

His success here made his returns home heart-tugging, and he’d literally allow lines to form at his home, where he’d hand out money.

He enjoys the fruits of his labor — drives a lavish sports car, is angling to buy a multi-million-dollar home in L.A. with this purse from the Mayweather fight — but his newborn religious faith and current duties as a congressman in the Philippines still leave him feeling obligated.

“I enjoy helping people — the poor, orphans — I cannot leave them hungry without helping them. I’m not materialistic,” he said. “The money’s not mine. It’s God’s grace that’s entrusted to me.

“My first concern every fight is how to entertain people, give them enjoyment and make them happy. Of course, for doing that, there’s a price, and [Mayweather] set this price.”

Pacquiao admits both men had “nowhere to go,” regarding another big fight. Mayweather, 38, wouldn’t come close to earning $200 million in a fight against Amir Khan, and Marquez no longer wants to fight Pacquiao.

Pacquiao could’ve dug in, pressing Mayweather for a better cut with so many millions possible. But Pacquiao said he has other concerns.

“I have to make sure I’m in the best condition of my life,” he said. “Being an underdog, you’re more focused on training, from the first day to the last day. I’m very confident. My training, conditioning; I can feel it. My speed, footwork, punches … are the things to beat his [defensive] style and win the fight.”

The possibility of recouping a larger chunk in a rematch is something Pacquiao said he can tend to after this fight.

First, he has to win, and so he routinely spent this training camp in L.A. running up to Griffith Observatory, with a pack of fans and countrymen tailing.

“The most important thing in this fight is cutting off the ring — with strong legs, footwork, speed,” Pacquiao said. “It’s good to get to the top of the observatory and feel like I do now.”

He’ll break camp Monday, then drive himself to Las Vegas.

“No problem,” he said, about the biggest fight of his life on Saturday. “I’m ready.”

Sacramentos-Sim-Bhullar-makes-NBA-history-as-first-Indian-player-in-league

Sacramento’s Sim Bhullar makes NBA history as first Indian player in league

There wasn’t much to it, there were just 16 seconds left in a blowout game, but it happened:

The Kings’ Sim Bhullar made NBA history as first player of Indian descent ever in the Association. The D-League call up likely will get more time in upcoming games. Hopefully we’ll get to see him do more than inbound the basketball.

It may have been one small step in an undecided game, but it was a giant step for the NBA — the first player with family from one of the world’s largest and most populated countries on the planet walked on to an NBA court and had his name called.

Bhullar is a bit of a project as a big man. But from the “things you can’t teach” file he is 7’5″ and weighs north of 350. He spent most of the season with the Reno Big Horns.

Iran-women-can-watch-matches

Iran’s deputy minister for sports: yes, women can go to watch big matches

Iran has said it will allow female fans to attend big sporting events alongside men, overturning a long-standing ban that made international headlines when a young British-Iranian woman was jailed for trying to attend a men’s volleyball match last year.

The deputy minister for sports, Abdolhamid Ahmadi, told the state news agency on Saturday that the country’s national security council had approved a government proposal to allow women to watch games this year.

Iranian authorities detained Ghoncheh Ghavami, 26, in June for trying to attend a men’s volleyball match.

Ghavami, who spent five months in jail before being released on bail, was arrested after taking part in a protest with other activists in front of Tehran’s majestic Azadi complex, wearing a white scarf and holding a placard, demanding to be allowed to watch the match between Iran and Italy.

Now it has emerged that an appeals court has dismissed charges against her and she will not have to return to prison, although a travel ban imposed on her is still in place.

In reaction to her detention, the international volleyball federation said it would not allow Iran to host international events while women were barred from stadiums.

Speaking to the Observer, Ghavami, who is in Tehran, welcomed the news. “Although this proposal is likely to be enforced with some limitations in the beginning, fortunately the issue of women demanding to be allowed in stadiums has gained much public support in the country thanks to the efforts of women’s rights activists in the past 10 years,” she said.

“The new government has supported the ban to be lifted but we want to make sure there will be a guarantee women will be allowed to attend all sporting events in future.”

It was not clear from Ahmadi’s comments which sports women can watch, but they are likely to include basketball and volleyball. The move will pave the way for women to watch football matches. Hassan Rouhani’s vice president for women and family affairs, Shahindokht Mowlaverdi, welcomed Saturday’s news in a tweet.

“This proposal is designed according to our cultural, social and religious sensibilities and for certain sports which are exclusive to men, families [and women] cannot attend matches,” the deputy minister said, presumably referring to swimming.

Although women in Iran engage in a variety of sports from martial arts to car rallies so long as they obey the Islamic hijab, they are not allowed to do certain sports in public where men can watch, such as swimming.

But the Iranian society is slowly, steadily changing and women are increasingly allowed greater sporting activities. Iranian women’s struggle to be allowed to enter stadiums was highlighted in a 2006 film, Offside, made by prominent Iranian director Jafar Panahi, which features a group of girls attempting to enter a stadium to watch a World Cup qualifying match.

The mandatory hijab for sportswomen has caused obstacles in the past. In 2011, Iran’s women’s football team was banned from an Olympic qualifier recently after Fifa ruled that their full-body strip broke the organisations rules.

In 2013, soon after Hassan Rouhani won the election in Tehran Shirin Gerami, made history after persuading Iranian officials to allow her to compete in a world championship in London as Iran’s first female triathlete.

She was the first Iranian women to take part in triathlon, which involved swimming in public, for her country’s tricolour green, white and red flag.

Rouhani, who tweeted a picture of Gerami after the competition, has called for gender equality since taking power, but such decisions are not entirely in his hands.

Ghavami’s detention embarrassed him but Iran’s judiciary, which was behind her arrest, acts independently of government. The president has advocated women being allowed to enter sporting events, such as volleyball matches.

Efforts to allow women to watch sport started under Ahmadinejad’s rule but hit a gridlock when a group of hardline Iranian MPs and influential clerics objected. Fatemeh Alia, a female MP, was quoted as saying last year that women are for “taking care of their babies and husband – not watching volleyball”.

It is not clear if the new announcement will meet any sabotage by the conservative-dominated parliament.

UFC Fight Night Weigh-in

UFC on FOX 15 Lands Paige VanZant vs. Felice Herrig and Jim Miller vs. Paul Felder

UFC on FOX 15 on Wednesday landed a couple more bouts, as women’s strawweights Paige VanZant and Felice Herrig will square off on the fight card, as will lightweights Jim Miller and Paul Felder.

The two new bouts were originally reported on UFC Tonight on FOX Sports 1. They join the already announced April 18 headliner pitting Lyoto Machida vs. Luke Rockhold.

Twenty-year-old VanZant (4-1) may not have been old enough to compete on The Ultimate Fighter, but she immediately became a fan favorite with her spirited TKO stoppage of Kailin Curran at UFC Fight Night 54 on Nov. 22 in Austin, Texas.

She’ll now face Herrig (10-5), who capped off her participation on The Ultimate Fighter with an armbar submission of Lisa Ellis on the show’s finale in December.

Miller (24-5, 1 NC) returns to the Octagon for the first time since last summer, when he lost the UFC Fight Night 45 main event to the red-hot Donald Cerrone in Atlantic City, N.J.

He faces no easy task trying to rebound from the loss when he faces Felder, who is undefeated in his ten professional bouts. Felder’s resume includes two UFC victories, over Jason Saggo and Danny Castillo. Miller will be his most experienced opponent to date.

Fernando Verdasco wins Nadal at Madrid Open

Nadal feels the blues as he loses in Madrid

Rafael Nadal tastes defeat for the first time in 22 matches at the Madrid Open.
Rafael Nadal tastes defeat for the first time in 22 matches at the Madrid Open.

(CNN) — World number two Rafael Nadal has sensationally lost to Fernando Verdasco 6-3, 3-6, 7-5 in the third round of the Madrid Open.

The loss was the first defeat of the clay court season for the six-time French Open champion.

Considered arguably the greatest player to ever set foot on clay, Nadal had recently won in Monte Carlo — a record eighth title — before clinching his seventh tournament victory in Barcelona. He had previously between Verdasco on all 13 of their previous meetings.

It took Verdasco three hours and 11 minutes to beat Nadal in an error-strewn match. Verdasco hit nine double faults but Nadal somehow conspired to lose despite leading 5-2 in the final set.

It brought to an end a 22-match winning streak for Nadal that stretched back to 201.

The shock defeat will reopen the debate about the Madrid Open’s controversial use of blue clay. World number one Novak Djokovic has been an outspoken critic of the surface.

“It’s impossible to move,” he was quoted as telling reporters by AFP earlier in the week.

“I cannot find the words to describe this court. It’s really tough to play like this on a center court. We need serious discussion about the future of this blue clay.

“We cannot change anything this year, but my first impressions are not good. I don’t want to be the one complaining, but I say honestly what I feel.”

Ironically it was Nadal that refused to be drawn on the issue of the blue clay after he had comfortably beaten Russia’s Nikolay Davydenko in straight sets 6-2 6-2 on Wednesday.

“It was my first match here in these circumstances,” he said.

“I am very happy about my result, about the way that I played.”

Verdasco goes on to play the sixth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych in the next round.

MMA Bullring Teams with Bamma USA to bring Mixed Martial Arts and Bull riding to another level

MMA Bullring has put together a who’s who team of established MMA icon’s as well as experienced rodeo promoters to lead this new entertainment extravaganza.

Led by MMAJACKED, ProFightNetwork, and MMABAY NEWS founder, Chris Greenman, and Ontario Rodeo promoter John Shelby & Sons, this group has a veteran base.

MMA Bullring’s first proof of know-how came in the immediate decision to claim partnership with BAMMA USA, a veteran and successful California Mixed Martial Arts promotion. Greenman and BAMMA USA CEO, Brett Roberts, have a long and loyal history of partnered events and both know MMA from almost all aspects.

IJR NEWS spoke with Chris Greenman, and he told us this “Mr. Shelby came to me with this idea and I initially took it on as a marketing consultant gig.  Through my discovery of  their already dedicated audiences of the rodeo events and after going to some of these events in Ontario, it was simple choice. There was already a committed crowd and it might make sense to introduce them to MMA.  It was my twisted idea to have the best at each compete in the others respective sport and Mr. Shelby agreed.”

“I then contacted Brett Roberts to see if he would back me on bringing BAMMA USA out to Perris and he came out to the fairgrounds and arena and was convinced, the rest will be history in the making and I am excited to add another dimension to my favorite sport. Can you imagine, Jon Jones on a bull or Anderson Silva or any UFC guy?  I know some of them wouldn’t hesitate but there are others that would run as fast as I would.”

Will the cowboys fight a round of MMA with other cowboys or even possibly established MMA fighters?  Will MMA fighters ride a bull or play cowboy poker against other MMA fighters or possibly established bull riders? These are all questions that will be fun seeing answered.

This is a first of its kind type of event mixing both Mixed Martial Arts and the most brutal rodeo events including bull riding and cowboy poker.  At the end of the planned 6 event circuit, the tables will turn allowing the top of each sport compete in the others sport.  May 19th marks the debut of MMA Bullring’s inaugural event, located in Perris, CA at the state fair location.  Tickets are now available to May 19th event that promises to push the envelope in terms of toughness.

Allen Shelby

Junior Journalist IJR News

Allen@ijrnews.com

Protesters try to foul up Grand Prix

Despite protests, Bahrain Grand Prix runs without a hitch

Click to play
Heavy security present for Bahrain race
— Days of escalating government protests failed to halt the Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday, which took place even as nearby streets were blocked with burning tires and trash.

Opposition calls for large protests had raised fears the Grand Prix would have to be canceled for a second year in a row and pose a threat to Formula One crews, workers, and fans.

There were no major signs of protest at the race itself. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel secured the win, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean of Lotus-Renault.

Activists said police arrested a group of at least seven female protesters inside the circuit who held up a signs demanding the release of Abdulhadi al-Khawaja, a member of the opposition who has been on a hunger strike for more than two months. A government spokesman said he could not confirm those reports.

“It has been reported but not confirmed that two women have been detained out of 50,000 attendees,” Bahraini government spokesman Abdul-Aziz bin Mubarak Al Khalifa said. “They tried to cause a scene at the end of the race, but they did not get very far.”

Sunday’s race was a “huge success,” he said.

In addition, television reporter Jonathan Miller and members of his crew from Britain’s Channel 4 were taken into custody, though there was no immediate explanation as to why. British Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote on Twitter, at what was then early Monday morning in Bahrain, that he was “very concerned about (the journalists) detention” and that embassy officials were “seeking urgent consular access.”

A short time later, Miller sent a message himself on Twitter declaring he’d “been released with my crew. Breakneck drive to Bahrain airport in police van. Being deported now.” The foreign affairs correspondent wrote that police “refused to give us back our cameras and computers,” and that his driver and an activist accompanying them were still in custody.

“We are assured they will be freed soon,” Miller said.

Anti-government protesters had called the race a publicity stunt by the country’s rulers to make the nation appear more unified.

The Bahrain Grand Prix was canceled twice last year amid an uprising sparked by the success of popular revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. Bahrain’s Sunni-ruled government brutally crushed the Shiite uprising, though the opposition has continued to demand political reform in protests and, occasionally, clashes with authorities.

The February 14 Youth Coalition, an opposition group that took its name from the day the Bahrain uprising began last year, had urged protesters to turn out during the race Sunday.

“We ask the rebels in the western villages to escalate the revolutionary mobilization to the highest levels and to continue to target the street leading to the Bahrain circuit,” the group said on its Facebook page.

Protests with burning tires and trash blocked most of the secondary roads leading to the race track, though the main highway remained open, said Mohammed al Maskati of the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights.

There were also protests in many nearby villages, he said.

The government spokesman said there were “pockets of violence in remote parts of the country, but there has been no activity that has been seen anywhere around the circuit or on the way to the capital.”

Bahrain Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al-Khalifa had said another race cancellation would play into extremists’ hands, according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency. And the sport’s governing body vowed the event would go on, despite continuing high tensions.

On the eve of the race, security forces in a suburb of Manama clashed with thousands of protesters who were attempting to march to the highway that leads to the Formula One circuit. At least three people were injured during clashes, al Maskati said.

The demonstration was in response to the death of a protester whose body was found early Saturday on a farm outside Manama, a day after he took part in a demonstration that was broken up by security forces, according to opposition groups.

Bahrain’s leading opposition party Al-Wefaq and the Bahrain Youth Society identified the man as Salah Abbas Habib Musa. The Bahrain Interior Ministry confirmed the identity of the 36-year-old man, and said the case is under investigation.

Formula One is the world’s most popular motor sport, and races have a TV audience of more than 500 million. Canceling the race last year cost Bahrain an estimated $480 to $800 million in potential investments.

The Bahraini government has played down any risk to visitors, saying the Grand Prix will act as a unifying force amid the nation’s civil unrest.

Bahrain has declined to extend the visas of non-sports reporting crews from CNN, Reuters and other news outlets and told them they would not be allowed to stay for the race.

Protesters, meanwhile, are using the international spotlight on the Grand Prix to call for the release of al-Khawaja, who was arrested about a year ago.

Al-Khawaja is protesting the life sentence he received for his role in anti-government demonstrations.

Denmark’s ambassador met Sunday with al-Khawaja, who once lived in the country and holds Danish citizenship. The Danish government has asked that Bahrain turn him over; Bahraini officials have refused.

He was in stable condition Sunday, the Bahraini government spokesman said.

Al-Khawaja can appeal his life sentence during a hearing Monday, the government has said.

Sadaf Rahimi dream to become the Olympic boxing champ

Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer eyes London dream

By Nick Paton Walsh and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — An arena where the Taliban used to execute women provides a chilling and incongruous setting for one teen girl’s unlikely Olympic dream.

But the dusty floors, broken mirrors, and poorly-lit hallways inside Kabul’s Ghazni stadium have been the training base for 17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi.

Dressed in a track suit, red lace up boots and a blue bandana, she is on course to become Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer and only the third Afghan sportswoman to compete at an Olympic Games.

“The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin,” she told CNN during a break from training. “Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!”

She did just that. A wild card from the Olympic committee has propelled the student towards the London games this summer, a daunting prospect given the modest resources at her disposal.

Rahimi and her teammates, including her sister Shabnam, can’t train in a proper boxing ring, because one doesn’t exist in war-torn Afghanistan. Instead dozens of girls and women in the team shuffle around in mismatched uniforms inside a small, dirty improvised gym complete with padded flooring.

“The equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I’ve even had to buy my own boxing socks,” she said.

Women’s boxing in Afghanistan

With sport facilities in short supply in Kabul, the boxing team’s time in this gym is limited.

“We can only train one hour a day, and that’s it,” said Rahimi. “It’s not enough to prepare for London. Other teams around the world train three times a day.”

Rahimi says she would like expert help in Dubai or India to be competitive against more seasoned international fighters.

But this is Afghanistan, where money is too often in all the wrong places. So they’re left hoping for a sponsor to help them out.

“We would like a sponsor with a good name in the world of sports. But more importantly a company that can assist our female athletes in the future, Rahimi’s coach, Mohammed Saber Sharifi, said.

Sharifi, a former male professional boxer and an advocate for women’s rights, believes the world will see Afghanistan in a different light when Rahimi steps into the ring in London.

“I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete. We represent this country with pride,” he said.

I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete.
Mohammed Saber Sharifi, coach

Afghan females imprisoned for ‘moral crimes’

The Afghan Amateur Women’s Boxing Association was established by the Cooperation for Peace and Unity project in 2007 to promote women and girls in sports.

When female athletes were banned by the Taliban from competing in sport, Afghanistan was suspended from competition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It missed the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a result. Afghanistan — with female athletes involved for the first time — competed in Athens in 2004 after the Taliban had been ousted in 2001.

But the Taliban have not been the only obstacle.

In a country where human rights activists say women are still vulnerable to prejudice and a range of issues including domestic violence, forced marriage and sexual abuses, Rahimi fears for her own safety.

Her father spoke of anonymous threats and warnings that his daughters should not be boxing. Many fear this kind of conservatism in Afghan society will increase when NATO leaves the country.

“For one month I was not allowed to come to the gym for practice because of my safety”, she said.

While her own parents are extremely supportive of her and her sister, she says other family members have criticized their lifestyle.

“My aunt used to say girls should stay at home and do housework, they shouldn’t be going out and playing sports. She would say my actions are not in line with Islam.”

But Rahimi says this pressure doesn’t keep her from the sport she loves.

It’s easy to be impressed by the dedication shown by someone who says she’s never hit anyone in anger — well, not yet anyway.

Sadaf Rahimi dream to become the Olympic boxing champ

Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer eyes London dream

By Nick Paton Walsh and Mitra Mobasherat, CNN
17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi was given a wild card to compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) — An arena where the Taliban used to execute women provides a chilling and incongruous setting for one teen girl’s unlikely Olympic dream.

But the dusty floors, broken mirrors, and poorly-lit hallways inside Kabul’s Ghazni stadium have been the training base for 17-year-old Sadaf Rahimi.

Dressed in a track suit, red lace up boots and a blue bandana, she is on course to become Afghanistan’s first female Olympic boxer and only the third Afghan sportswoman to compete at an Olympic Games.

“The first time I hit someone it was in my village, I was 11. It was actually my cousin,” she told CNN during a break from training. “Afterwards he said I hit him so hard that I should become a boxer!”

She did just that. A wild card from the Olympic committee has propelled the student towards the London games this summer, a daunting prospect given the modest resources at her disposal.

Rahimi and her teammates, including her sister Shabnam, can’t train in a proper boxing ring, because one doesn’t exist in war-torn Afghanistan. Instead dozens of girls and women in the team shuffle around in mismatched uniforms inside a small, dirty improvised gym complete with padded flooring.

“The equipment we have is pretty inadequate. I’ve even had to buy my own boxing socks,” she said.

Women’s boxing in Afghanistan

With sport facilities in short supply in Kabul, the boxing team’s time in this gym is limited.

“We can only train one hour a day, and that’s it,” said Rahimi. “It’s not enough to prepare for London. Other teams around the world train three times a day.”

Rahimi says she would like expert help in Dubai or India to be competitive against more seasoned international fighters.

But this is Afghanistan, where money is too often in all the wrong places. So they’re left hoping for a sponsor to help them out.

“We would like a sponsor with a good name in the world of sports. But more importantly a company that can assist our female athletes in the future, Rahimi’s coach, Mohammed Saber Sharifi, said.

Sharifi, a former male professional boxer and an advocate for women’s rights, believes the world will see Afghanistan in a different light when Rahimi steps into the ring in London.

“I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete. We represent this country with pride,” he said.

I hope the world can see that Afghan women are breaking down barriers by pursuing their dreams of becoming a professional athlete.
Mohammed Saber Sharifi, coach

Afghan females imprisoned for ‘moral crimes’

The Afghan Amateur Women’s Boxing Association was established by the Cooperation for Peace and Unity project in 2007 to promote women and girls in sports.

When female athletes were banned by the Taliban from competing in sport, Afghanistan was suspended from competition by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). It missed the 2000 Olympics in Sydney as a result. Afghanistan — with female athletes involved for the first time — competed in Athens in 2004 after the Taliban had been ousted in 2001.

But the Taliban have not been the only obstacle.

In a country where human rights activists say women are still vulnerable to prejudice and a range of issues including domestic violence, forced marriage and sexual abuses, Rahimi fears for her own safety.

Her father spoke of anonymous threats and warnings that his daughters should not be boxing. Many fear this kind of conservatism in Afghan society will increase when NATO leaves the country.

“For one month I was not allowed to come to the gym for practice because of my safety”, she said.

While her own parents are extremely supportive of her and her sister, she says other family members have criticized their lifestyle.

“My aunt used to say girls should stay at home and do housework, they shouldn’t be going out and playing sports. She would say my actions are not in line with Islam.”

But Rahimi says this pressure doesn’t keep her from the sport she loves.

It’s easy to be impressed by the dedication shown by someone who says she’s never hit anyone in anger — well, not yet anyway.