For Glasgow’s Kash Farooq (16-1, 6KOs), his dreams are twisted up in car wrecks, as his career at the top level of his chosen sport appears finished, despite a life of sacrifice and irreplaceable discipline. And it reminds us of what boxing never does, and probably never will do: a proper background check.
It means that fighters with chequered pasts or undisguisable brushes with the law can still carve out careers, punching other fighters in the face, making their money, and never quite facing the full force of the law, morally. Boxing has allowed these nefarious characters a route back to the top of the earning table – and I’m not against that. Not at all. Second chances are everything that make the sport of boxing beautiful. Sure, criminals should be monitored, earnings should be strictly legal, and they should appear reformed, but they are not to blame for the misfortune of the honest, good men. Like Ukashir Farooq.
Why Farooq? Of all the professionals in all the towns, why is it him that must face retirement?
This again is boxing’s mystery. For every medical and every scan, there’s an anomaly somewhere, and it doesn’t matter how much we wish it was a convicted felon or someone we deem undeserving, the law of the body doesn’t quite work that way. We can point the finger at excessive sparring or a lack of proper rest between fights in some cases – but how else can a boxer capitalise on their momentum? How can we skip past that “just another decent pro” label, and let fans of the sport know that this guy is legit? Development is critical, and capitalising on forward trajectory is enormously important. Especially after a loss. Whatever the concern, whatever the ‘unforeseen circumstance,’ it isn’t fair.
Kash Farooq is alive, and he is healthy. God, he’s smart. Smarter than some of his peers who’ve continued in the sport (or tried to continue) with their own perilous injuries or issues, and smarter than those snake-like promoters who’ve shamelessly made money from damaged, vulnerable fighters of all descriptions in the past. Rest assured, the promoters willing to risk it extend further than just the backwater of a Tijuana clubhouse, some are much closer to home.
If there’s money to be made, there’s a man or women to make it.
One of the things that must hurt Farooq – and long-time trainer Craig Dickson – the most, is that their highest payday, their most important bout, was signed, sealed, and delivered. That rematch with Edinburgh’s Lee McGregor (very kindly retweeting the Matchroom statement on Farooq and expressing his own devastation at the news) was a done deal for April this year. While Farooq loses a foe and so much more, so does McGregor, yet both men live to fight another day. Ultimately, that is what counts.
Farooq has been smart enough to turn his back on boxing for his own reasons, which for now, remain unconfirmed. But sometimes emotion can cripple intelligence. Knowing you should leave a toxic relationship is far different from gathering the courage to slam the door in the face of the offender. It remains to be seen what emerges from coming days: a statement? A medical condition? A glimpse of hope for Farooq’s future between the ropes?
I’d expect the latter to appear just after pigs fly over Boxing Social headquarters – and good. Let’s keep our fighters safe, and secure, but boxing must offer them something.
Let’s fill the void, whether it’s punditry on Matchroom broadcasts, or Farooq’s exciting new role with St Andrews Sporting Club as ‘Head of Talent.’ For any fighter retiring prematurely, the next step is the most difficult to tread, and the most unsteady. Those moments alone, unsure of your purpose, angry at all the things you’ve left in the past and at the time you may perceive as wasted, are valuable. You must experience them and push through them – because boxing isn’t all Anthony Joshuas and Floyd Mayweathers. For most retired fighters, a sense of loneliness can creep in, that feeling that you don’t quite belong anywhere anymore, and that normality is a bit too normal.
Most fighters who perform on a lesser platform than the stars of modern pay-per-view will understand and realise their level without losing heavily, or being knocked out, or failing medicals. But some – like Farooq – won’t. Questions remain unanswered, and “what ifs” are played on repeat. Decisions like his retirement yesterday aren’t made on a whim, not with his potential.
While Farooq – Glasgow’s brightest hope for a world title – retires, there are tens of fighters waiting to take his place; waiting to sacrifice everything that he has sacrificed, with no guarantee. But how do they earn it? How do they cast aside thoughts of what “might have been?” And do they assume that adopting stubborn masculinity is the key to success in the hurt business? Must train harder, must spar harder, must cut weight, must stay standing. It’s hard to see that changing.
Boxing is a beautiful, intricate artform, and it’s without comparison. It saves lives; it allowed a young Pakistani immigrant to become a national beacon of hope here in Glasgow, Scotland, with all his good nature and impeccable manners intact, and his aspirations draped proudly in the Scottish flag. And while Kash Farooq looks on with his health in the best possible place, waiting and watching for the next Scottish world champion, let’s make sure that whoever he or she is, we throw our hands together and carry them on our shoulders. Because this is Scotland.