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Iraqi boxing team prepares for the international tournament in Pakistan

[LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images] The young Iraqi boxing team is looking to perform well at the upcoming event

[LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images] The young Iraqi boxing team is looking to perform well at the upcoming event

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The Iraqi National Boxing Team started a 10-day training camp Monday (December 21st) in Basra to prepare for the Benazir Bhutto International Tournament in Karachi from January 1st to the 8th.

Jassim said the Basra training camp would benefit the Iraqi national team with "continuous competition with the Basra team, which is known for its good reputation and high level of boxing -- something that will help the national team players raise their physical fitness and level of technique."

The national team also participated in a training camp earlier in Erbil, but according to Jassim, the camp was not useful "due to the low technical level of the Erbil teams."

After the Erbil camp, the national team held another camp in Baghdad for 40 days. They stretched in the morning to boost physical fitness, and in the evening, team members focused on exercises to enhance their technique and boxed with one another.

"All the current boxers on the Iraqi national team are young. Based on a decision from the Iraqi Boxing Federation we excluded the more experienced boxers because of the reduction in their skills and their somewhat old age," Jassim said.

The coach says he does not expect the team to rank among the top at the Pakistan tournament, "but it will be good preparation for our young players to prepare them for the next continental and international championships."

National team boxer Hassan Ali said the Basra training camp would be the final preparation for the team.

"I expect it to be better than the other training camp we held during our preparations for the international championship," he said. "The benefit will derive from the many matches we will have against the highly skilled Basra players."

He added, "I hope the national team players will put in a satisfactory performance for the training staff, who did their best to make us reach this level."

Meanwhile, national team player Ahmed Badr expressed his trust that his teammates and the training crew would place high in the Pakistan tournament "and that all their efforts in recent months of preparations will not be in vain."

The last time Iraq participated in an international tournament was last November at the Egypt International Tournament, where the Iraqi team managed to win nine medals: one gold, four silver, and four bronze.

At the same time, the Iraqi Central Boxing Federation (ICBF) is preparing to host the al-Salam International Tournament in Erbil early next March with several Arab and foreign teams participating.

Secretary of the ICBF Feras Moussa said "al-Salam International Tournament will witness broad Arab participation, as all the Gulf Arab countries, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt have confirmed their participation."

Moreover, the ICBF is still waiting for confirmations from some other Arab countries, such as Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.

Moussa said the ICBF also sent invitations to a number of Asian and European countries to participate in the tournament, "we hope that those countries will accept the Iraqi invitation."

"Preparations are underway in Erbil to host this international event and to organize the tournament in the best possible way to leave a good impression on all the participating teams about Iraq's ability to organize international tournaments," Moussa added.

Iraqi national boxing coach Hussain Jassim said eight boxers would participate in the Pakistan tournament. Training staff selected the players based on their levels of technical and physical skill. They include Omar Kefah Kadhum, Ahmed Badr Tarik, Zulfaqqar Abdel-Karim, Mustafa Mohammed, Hasan Ali Shakir, Mustafa Raad Shayal, Mustafa Qassim Abd, and Raed Hashim.

PHOTO: [LAURENT FIEVET/AFP/Getty Images] The young Iraqi boxing team is looking to perform well at the upcoming event