Neeraj Goyat will draw inspiration from India’s dominating World Cup triumph over Pakistan when he takes on Pakistani-origin British boxer Amir Khan at next month’s WBC Pearl World Championship bout in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Indian pro-boxer, who was the WBC Asia welterweight title-holder, will take on Amir, a two-time world champion and Olympic silver-medallist, at the King Abdullah Sports City in Jeddah on July 12. Neeraj and Amir, who has Pakistani roots, recently had a war of words on social media after India crushed Pakistan by 89 runs at the World Cup last Sunday.
Amir had said he would avenge Pakistan’s defeat by knocking out Neeraj, who responded by saying “keep dreaming”. “This fight has been billed as ‘Nation connect’ and after India beat Pakistan at World Cup, Amir tweeted and I also replied. For me, India’s win over Pakistan at the World cup will serve as an inspiration. In a way, the Indian team has started it and I will complete it on July 12,” Neeraj told PTI. “Given the current background, there will be a bit of pressure. Of course, we both will try to ensure that we make our country proud,” he added. The 27-year-old from Haryana said he will face the biggest test of his career on July 12.
“When I started as a professional boxer, I had this dream of taking Indian boxing to the world stage and it is coming true now. It is the first time that an Indian will fight against such a big name like Amir Khan. I want to beat him and seal India’s place on the global map,” Neeraj said. “Now WBC belt has the picture of my country. It has my photo like the Muhammad Alis and Mike Tysons and it is a big thing for me. So it will be the biggest match not only for me but also for Indian professional boxing. If I do well, it will pave the way for other Indian boxers.”
Amir held the WBC silver welterweight title from 2014 to 2016 but his bid to become a two-weight champion fell short in his last outing against Terence Crawford in New York for the WBO welterweight title. Neeraj, who has a record of 11 wins including two knockouts, feels he will have a psychological advantage going into the clash. “I think I will have the advantage over Amir because I had won the same day at Canada when Amir lost in US in April. I played against a tough fighter all six rounds, so I will have that mental edge.”
When Amir clinched the Olympic medal in 2004 Athens olympics, Neeraj hadn’t even started his boxing career. The Indian said he has been sparring with younger boxers, to prepare for his fight with the senior pro. “I have been watching his videos and I know his style, so I am sparring with those boxers who have a similar style. I fight the young boxers because they are more motivated,” he said. “I used to train at Pune but now I am back to my home Haryana. My coach Narender Rana prepares my training schedule. I spar twice a week.”
Neeraj believes sport has the power to transcend boundaries and create amity between the people of India and Pakistan. “I think sports can bring the countries together. It will bring people together, they just need safety and want to see the country’s flag flying high. “In sports, someday we will win, someday they will win, so it will bring happiness to the people of both countries, so politics will end and it will promote friendship,” he signed off.