War-torn Afghanistan has embraced boxing as a form of sport by staging its first professional boxing fight amid violence and anarchy brought about by over a decade of fighting between US-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban
The first professional boxing fight took place at the Loya Jirga tent in Kabul featuring an Afghan-born refugee Hamid Rahimi and Tanzania's Said Mbelwa in the middleweight division. At stake was the World Boxing Organization's (WBO) Intercontinental middleweight belt.
Rahimi, who fled to Germany before the Taliban occupation, won the fight via TKO in round seven of the match and claimed the WBO belt.
"This belt is not mine, this belt is Afghanistan's belt. It's yours. I love you," an ecstatic Rahimi told the crowd from the ring.
The middleweight boxing fight dubbed "Fight 4 Peace" by Afghan organizers was graced by top Afghan officials including lawmakers.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai congratulated Rahimi for the win during their meeting on Wednesday. Karzai also thanked the Tanzanian fighter for facing Rahimi in Afghanistan.
Rahimi, 29, turned professional six years ago in Germany and has 21 fights to his credit with only one loss.
Before the bout, Rahimi told the crowd he had wish to fight in his native Afghanistan to promote peace.
"This was my biggest wish, to have a match in my own land," he told them. "In Germany when I was talking to people about having a professional boxing match here they laughed at me and said, 'There's a war there, it's impossible'."
One of Rahimi's supporters in Afghanistan said (via Reuters), the boxing event is aimed at bringing peace among the warring factions and to keep them away from war.
"Its aim is to change people's minds in order to keep them away from war and enmity," said Rahimi supporter Attah Mohammad Yousufzai, a finance manager for a logistics company in Kabul.
"It aims to show them how to fight and still love each other."
After his victorious homecoming fight in Afghanistan, Rahimi said it is a fresh beginning for his country.