Mighty Marzook: The Sri Lankan boxer deprived of an Olympic berth | Sunday Observer

Mighty Marzook: The Sri Lankan boxer deprived of an Olympic berth

24 January, 2021
Mohamed Marzook
Mohamed Marzook

Boxing is not a sport for the faint-heart as it involves body contact which needs a lot of endurance and stamina to endure the punches, including quick reflection to avoid the opponent’s punches.

Sri Lanka has produced some quality boxers in the past, who participated at international events and brought honour and fame to the country.

Hassan Mohamed Marzook is one of them who had an illustrious career defeating some of the best in the ring and remained at the top until he hung up his gloves.

It was a crying shame that the people who ran the country at that time were responsible for Marzook’s exclusion from the Olympic Games in Mexico City in 1968 due to the foreign exchange policy at that time.

He had to settle for the Asian Games in Bangkok after which he called it a day to his marathon eleven years of boxing against many hurdles outside the ring.

Marzook, who is now in his early 70s hails from a family of seven and is the second among the siblings. He enrolled at St. Michael’s College, Polwatte, Kollupitiya, a leading Christian school and at the age of 12, his school principal SK Gunawardena invited him to take up boxing, due to his build and body structure. It motivated him throughout his entire school career.

Marzook was initially an athlete and a good runner who excelled at inter house meets, which was an added advantage for him to be chosen to box.

As a boxer he came under the watchful eyes of coach Anton John, a former National pin weight champion. Marzook was 13 when he got his first taste of competition at an inter house meet and lost to Hans Vancuylenberg who was a better pugilist.

But Marzook was not dejected by his loss and continued training and learning boxing techniques with great determination at a quick pace and represented the school team at the most prominent boxing competition in the schools’ calendar - the Stubbs Shield. His opponent was Noel Bulla of St. Sylvester’s College, Kandy to whom he lost.

Even though he had a disastrous beginning to his boxing career, losing his first few bouts, he gradually matured and went on to fight with great self-determination and aggression at the Schools Junior Championships held at Depot Police ring, another popular event held in the country attracting some of the best school boxers in the country.

In 1963 at the age of 14, he once again competed in the Stubbs Shield and this time won his bout against a boxer from S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia, whose name he cannot remember. This was the turning point in his career that gave him a morale boost to surge ahead and compete at many major meets.

Marzook was selected to represent the country at the Asian Championship in 1967 at the Sugathadasa Indoor Stadium which was the stepping stone to an international career. He grabbed the Bronze medal defeating a Burmese boxer and continued to box at the Stubbs Shield and established a record as the undisputed champion for three consecutive years from 1963 to 1965, which was a tremendous achievement and for which he was awarded the Best Boxer Trophy in 1965.

He also boxed at the Indo-Ceylon boxing meets and remained unbeaten from 1963 to 1965. His best performances came in 1965 when he won several meets starting with the Novices and won the Best Boxer Trophy representing the Low Country team against the Up-Country team.

He also claimed the Intermediate championship the same year and remained unbeaten for three years at the Asian Boxing Association (ABA) Junior Championship and at the prestigious Clifford Cup.

At the inaugural Asian Championships in Sri Lanka he won a Bronze medal, losing in the semi-final on a split decision (3/2) to a world ranked champion from Korea.

Due to his consistent performances he received the National Best Boxer Trophy in 1967, followed by the National Feather Weight Champion where he remained undefeated for eight years from 1967 to 1974. He captained the Sri Lanka team at the Asian Championships held in the Philippines in 1970 and the contingent had boxers in the likes of M. Johoran, M. Weerakkody, Hans Vancuylenberg and Sirisena Wijetunga, some of the best during that era.

He coached his school St. Michael’s College and guided them to win the Junior Championships in 1972 and did the same with Hameed-Al-Hussaini College, Colombo that went on to win the Stubbs Shield followed by a stint at S. Thomas’ College while lending a hand to Police as their assistant coach.