Wazir recalls Lanka’s glory days in the sport

Boxing gets off the ground…
Text and Pic by Rangi Akbar

The Amateur Boxing Association of Sri Lanka is to hold its Annual General Meeting on July 4, ending five months of inactivity. It is in this backdrop that I met former Sri Lanka boxer Wazir Sourjah for an interview.

Wazir during his boxing days

Aubrey Peiris, Royal’s boxing captain 1985 and Stubbs Shield champion 84/85 has been nominated to be President of the ABA. He is an International Referee/Judge who officiated at the 2010 Asian Games in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Presently he is an operations manager at the Commercial Bank of Sri Lanka.
“He knows his stuff and can be relied upon to activate the ABA,” said Sourjah during the interview.

ahesh Dahanayake, Royal’s boxing captain 1982 and Stubbs Shield Champion in 1987 is tipped to be the Secretary. The Treasurer’s post is to be manned by Husni Saleh, an accountant by profession. Herbert Embuldeniya and Gen Jagath Jayasuriya have been retained as Vice Presidents. Assistant Secretary will be M.T.M. Sarfak and Assistant Treasurer Ms. Dilhara Sienoon.

For no specific reasons the ABA activities were annulled by the Sports Ministry and the sport grounded to a halt. Now the new committee will have its hands full in reviving its activities. Foremost in its calendar will be the London Olympics to be held in 2012.

Born on the 24th of August 1956, in Colombo, Wazir Sourjah captained the Royal College Boxing team in 1973 and the same year he was selected to represent the Colombo Schools against the Bombay Schools Boxing Association team along with his teammate from Royal, the stylish N R Thillekeratne, who is presently a Senior Management Staffer in a leading Sri Lankan private bank. Wazir and N R Thillekeratne were both awarded Sri Lanka Schools Boxing Colours in the year 1973, in addition to College colours. Wazir had his early schooling at St Michael’s College Colpetty. St Michael’s College produced champion boxers of the calibre of HM Marzook, M Jaroof, Sirisena Wijetunge, the Vancuylenburg brothers, Somapala Perera, TJI Ismail, TF Bahar and N Niyas. They were all renowned pugilists.

Wazir’s father the late MA Sourjah (Tony), had also represented Royal College at boxing in the 1930’s along with the late EC Gunasekera, his brother late Col HT Gunasekera and late Major AN Perera. Despite Wazir’s father being a boxer, the senior Sourjah was not in favour of his son taking to boxing. Wazir however donned gloves for the first time from St Michael’s College in 1969 at the then Colombo vs Outstation Schools Annual dual boxing meet, where in the finals he met the fancied and experienced Wasatha Perera of St Mary’s College and after a very close bout he lost to Wasantha Perera by a single point margin and was adjudged the Best Loser of the meet.

From this point onwards his father felt Wazir had some potential in the ring and supported him in his boxing career. This maiden achievement opened the doors to a successful school boxing career for Wazir. Late in the year 1970, Wazir Joined Royal College, the school of his father, uncles and grandfather and boxed for Royal until 1976. Wazir went on to win his weight at the Stubbs Shield Boxing Championships in the year 1971, 1973, and 1975. In 1969 in the Stubbs Shield meet he was runner up in the Pin weight under 65 lbs weight category losing to T M Saldin of Zahira College in a very close bout. However the same year, he won the same weight category in the Junior Championships (Junior Nationals), meet. The following year representing Royal, Wazir was runner up in the Light weight category under 85 lbs.

He was adjudged the Best Boxer in the junior weight categories in the Stubbs Shield Championships in 1971. In the Bombay vs Colombo Schools encounter in Bombay, India Wazir’s was the only knockout winner for the Colombo schools, under the diligent guidance of Boxing guru Donald Munasinghe, who was the coach of the Colombo schools team. The other popular boxing contemporaries of Wazir in the 70’s were MA Jayalath, Sumith Jayasuriya, D C Wijenayake, N Shanthikumar and BJH Fernando. The present Army Commander Lt Gen Jagath Jayasuriya, along with O D De Silva, N P Dayasagara, Asita De Silva, and Uduwaraarachchi also boxed in the team captained by Wazir in 1973. Under Wazir’s captaincy in 1973 Royal College saw a great revival of boxing and they won the TB Jayah memorial trophy for the Novices Meet and were runner up losing the Stubbs Shield by one point.

From 1973 onwards Royal maintained high standards of boxing. Jagath Jayasuriya later went on to captain Royal College at boxing and also win the senior best boxers cup in the Stubbs. During Wazir’s captaincy in 1973, P R Malavi , presently a senior Referee /Judge of the ABA of Sri Lanka functioned as the non playing boxing Secretary in Royal College and contributed immensely from behind the scenes and continues to do so for Royal boxing. In recognition of his talents Wazir was appointed a senior prefect and Wazir left Royal after passing his A/L’s in 1976 and in the interim boxed for the Colombo YMCA at the ABA open Club meets.

Wazir won his weight at the ABA Novices and Intermediate Boxing meets in 1978 and in January 1979 he joined the Sri Lanka Police as a Sub-Inspector and represented the Police at boxing until 1986, when he retired on being knocked out by the then National champion Airman, R D W N Perera. Wazir Captained the Police boxing team in 1982 and was also awarded Police boxing colours in 1983. He was also adjudged the best boxer at the Dowbiggin Inter Division Boxing Championships in the year 1980 representing Vavuniya Division under the patronage of the late DIG and Olympian CP Jayasuriya, who was the then Superintendent of Vavuniya Police Division. Wazir also represented the Vavuniya and Colombo Divisions at Inter Police Rugger and Soccer tournaments over the years.

During the period Wazir boxed for the police he represented the police at all the major ABA meets such as Layton Cup, Clifford Cup and the National Boxing championships. He was unfortunate not to win the National championships during his heyday due to the severe competition from the likes of TJI Ismail, VR Amarasinghe, U Sumanaweera, D W Weerasinghe and RDWN Perera. Wazir has no regrets as he was placed runner up in the Light Welter weight in the Layton Cup meet in 1986, and previously in the year 1978 in the same meet in the Light Fly weight where D W Weerasinghe beat him. Wazir sustained a bad cut on his right eye in the semifinals bout and was forced to retire in the second round owing to the eye cut opening due to the barrage of punches from the hard hitting DW Weerasinghe.

This meet also served as the final trial for the Asian Games that year and D W Weerasinghe made the trip. Wazir was also the runner up in the Bantam weight category in the Clifford Cup meet in 1980. These open meets gave him much exposure and life experiences with many tough close fights. Incidentally Wazir was a left hander and boxed Southpaw and rattled many an opponent. Wazir’s most memorable fight had been when he out boxed and out punched the much fancied A R A Vanheer (Junior), from St. Mary’s College Dehiwela in the trials to select the Colombo Schools team in the year 1973. Wazir recollects with great respect the valuable coaching inputs given to him by the late Anton John, HM Marzook, R.Rajendran and the late Danton Obeysekere, both Cambridge Boxing Blues, MR Rafaideen, MF Packeer, Winston Rajudin,(son of famous Zahira College Malay boxer T J Rajudin), HP Jayasuriya and Olympian and DIG the late Dharmasiri Weerakoon.

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