From the footpaths of Karachi’s Lyari to the Bronze Medal Stand of Seoul Summer Olympics 1988, Syed Hussain Shah has had a tiring yet fulfilling journey burdened with challenges and difficulties. However, all the childhood hitches and early troubles failed to pull him back from his dreams and led him to what no other Pakistan could have achieved. He’s not just a boxer in the rink but a fighter against troubles of life.
He started off as a homeless laborer in Karachi and sits proudly as a professional boxing trainer in Tokyo, with Pakistan’s highest civil award Sitara i Imtiaz pinned to his shoulder and countless medals to his credit for his impeccable realm for a decade on the international boxing front.
Born on August 14, 1964, he is a story in himself; an inspiration that reminds us the glory this country possesses. He was poor, he had little clothes, and sometimes no food at all. He would sleep at the streets and at times do a job here and labor there to earn himself a day’s bread.
He dreamt of being a boxer and fight to win a medal for the country but had little money and no training to take him there. He would practice on the streets, pick a fight in the nooks of Lyari, punched against garbage bags in the solitude of nights, and trained himself into what was soon to become ‘The Syed Hussain Shah’.
Shah made his international debut at the first South Asian Games in Nepal in 1984. Before he bagged the gold medal for Pakistan, Shah was unsure if he could even reach the tournament because he had little money. Having won the first gold, Shah saw no point of return and went on to winning two more Gold Medals at the second and third SAF Games held in Dhaka and Calcutta in 1985 and 1987, respectively.
By now shah knew nothing other than fighting for the country. He knew nothing less than a win. He was fearless and becoming the nightmare of international boxers. In 1987, he claimed another gold medal at the 13th Asian Boxing Championship held in Kuwait.
With 4 gold medals to his credit already, this Lyari-born pugilist next aimed to win the 1988 Summer Olympics. He performed creditably well and for the first time in history, Pakistan stood among the top three boxers at the Summer Olympics with the bronze medal in boxing gleaming with all might around Shah’s neck.
The government of Pakistan, in recognition of his fine feat in middleweight boxing conferred on him the prestigious Sitara i Imtiaz in 1989. Shah, later in 1996 bagged another gold medal for the country at the president’s cup boxing tournament held in Jakarta.
As of now, he lives comfortably in Tokyo with his family: a wife and two sons who represent Pakistan in Judo. Shah professionally trains boxers in Japan. He often expresses his discontentment over the Pakistan Boxer’s Federation holding it responsible for the demise of the sport in the country.
Over the years, we may have forgotten his name, but in the most recent tributes being given to the Olympic prodigy, a Lahore based musician is all set to release his flick Shah, a tribute to the man who bought Pakistan medal from the Olympics. Shah is all set to release on August 14, this year in cinemas across Pakistan.