Girls train to box their way to glory for Pakistan

KARACHI (REUTERS) - This nondescript building in a volatile neighbourhood in Karachi, Pakistan is the training ground for some potential boxing champions.

These are the boxers - girls aged eight to 17.

After some simple warmups, they get down to serious training.

15-year-old Urooj Qambrani says she's been training since childhood and "God willing," she says, she will become a national as well as an international boxer.

Urooj, daughter of coach Yunas Qambrani, said: "I am 15 years old, and I have been training since childhood. In the beginning, at home, sometimes we would practice, sometimes not. But here in the club we have to come regularly, and God willing, I will become a national as well as an international boxer."

Her father is the coach. He says the growth of the sport for both men and women in Pakistan has been hampered by a lack of equipment and adequate facilities, but the situation is slowly improving.

He founded the boxing club in 1992, and sees boxing as a path to more opportunity for the girls.

Coach Yunas said: "Our country's progress, and our girls' progress, lies in getting equal opportunities, so that they can move forward shoulder to shoulder with men. Only then is progress possible. So my wish was that girls should come out into the open."

They were out in the open at this recent practice match, looking right at home in tracksuits, boxing gloves and headscarves, showing off the skills honed by hours in the gym.