Aslam Pahalwan by Farid Azam

 

 

The heavyweight wrestling champion, The untamed lion of the wrestling world, ASLAM Pahalwan, was the 4th son of the Indian wrestling legend, Imam Bux. H e was ranked No.2 in the Indo-Pakistani wrestling. And could compete in every wrestling system. 

In actual fact Aslam was the nephew and adopted son of Great Gama, "the greatest wrestler India ever produced". The Great Indian fighter took the youngster into his care and treated him like his own son. Aslam also learned the tricks of the trade from his famous uncle, Hamida Pahalwan. He trained in Earthen Pit-wrestling. He was skilled in catch as well as the freestyle wrestling . Aslam won the title of Rustam-e-Punjab in 1951. He won the Commonwealth championship in 1953.  In Europe and America he wrestled as the All Indian Champion. Aslam has defeated big names in wrestling like Bert Assirati, George Gordianko, Roy Heffernon and King Kong.

During the earlier days the sport of wrestling was popular in Pakistan and the City of Lahore was the wrestling stronghold. His father, Imam Bux was the former All Indian champion from the State of Patiala. he held the title"Rustam-e-Hind" during the British Raj. Patiala was ruled by the Indian ruler, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. The same also had a house in Lahore, where Aslam Pahalwan was born in 1927. His real name was Muhammad Aslam khan. He grew up in extreme wrestling environments of the Punjab region.  He was by nature a comical figure but once he came into the ring he became very serious. For several years he was trained by Abdul Hamid Rehmaniwala better known as Hamida Pahalwan . powerhouse of wrestling that mostly wrestled in the sand pits. His training involved very much of the basic exercises. At 6'. 4'' and 300 lbs., he could easily  handle weight up to 136kg.  His diet consisted of Indian foods like Yakhni (soup) and whole lamb almond Thandai. He also took normal foods such as Mutton Nihari. But did not  have milk products because he was lactose intolerant.

 During his earlier bouts in the per-partition India, Aslam commenced his wrestling career  in Punjab. In his earliest days  he had his first bout with an amateur wrestler, Jiro Tandooria in Lahore which resulted a draw after 30 minutes of action. In Amritsar Ram Talai suburban, Aslam wrestled Talla Jalandhary for 35 minutes to a draw. Talla Pahalwan belongs to Jalandhar, an ancient city of Punjab in India. In one of his earlier matches he had his first bout in Amritsar-Punjab with BALA Pahalwan, and won that one.  Then in Patiala he defeated Niranjan Singh son of Dattu Pahalwan in his second match after wearing down his opponent. Wrestler Niranjan Singh came from Ambala district located on the borders of Haryana state and Punjab state in India. Later on, a wrestling tournament was sponsored by Maharaja Bhopindar Singh of Patiala. Aslam competed in this tournament and defeated Puran Singh. Aslam also wrestled in Bombay and Uttar Pradesh but he mostly gained popularity by beating some finest wrestlers like Kala of Punjab.   On 3rd Feb 1946, Aslam defeated Aslam Mohni Wala son of Mohni Chaudhry in a Dig Deh type of (deciding type) match in Lahore. Wrestler Mohni Wala was the brother of famous Punjabi wrestler Haji Afzal of Lahore. Caliph Noor Muhammad and Chaudhry Muhammad Ameen were the referees of this match. In 1946 The marhatta wrestler, “Vishnu Sawra” defeated Aslam Pahalwan in Kolhapur. Negligence and overconfidence cost him this bout.  Aslam never had a rematch with this young and promising wrestler because Vishnu Sawra died young in an accident sometime later. On Sunday, 1st September 1946, he met the much superior Younus Gujranwalia, a student of Rahim Sultaniwala in Amritsar and dropped this match. The 27 year old Younus was proclaimed victorious by both referees - Ahmad Baksh Bhakki Wala of Amritsar and Bassa Pahalwan of Lahore.  The match drew a large crowd therefore  DSP of Amritsar, Lutfullah Khan was also in attendance to keep the spectators  under control.

Sometime later Aslam defeated the former Lahore wrestling idol, Ghousia Pahalwan in a brief encounter. Ghousia was well past his prime at the time of this defeat.  Aslam also wrestled European Heavyweight Champion, Karl Pojello of Lithuania. Karl previously fought Hamida Pahalwan, legendary Imam Baksh and Judo Expert Masato Tamura.  Karl also tackled  during the past.

In August 1947, soon after the Indian partition, the Gama Wrestling family settled down in Lahore in the newly born Pakistan.  These were the days when this family was believed to be the greatest wrestling family in the world. And Pakistan was considered one of the wrestling strongholds. This was the golden era and wrestling was a part of their culture. It was a way of life for the people of Punjab. The same year Aslam and his elder brother Bholu Pahelwan (Manzoor Hussain) formed the new age Gama-Imam Tandem. Aslam came to Karachi because in 1948 his elder brother Bholu Pahalwan inaugurated a wrestling establishment known as Dar ul Sehat Gym in the heart of the city of Karachi.  Aslam competed in a number of local Wrestling tournaments in Pakistan. In 1951, a few years after the independence he won the Rustam-e-Punjab title by beating Younus Gujranwalia at the Minto Park in Lahore. This  match lasted for 9 minutes. Younus had previously beaten Aslam in 1946, but this time he cant. 

The Lahore based Bilal Ganj Wrestling Gym was the nest of the Bholu brothers.  Aslam was to defended his Rustam-e- Punjab title against different opponents including  Umar Hayat of Toba Tek Singh in 1952.  But these matches never took place for  some anonymous reason. There wasn't much left to do in local wrestling. In fact the conventional Indian and Pakistani wrestling used to be a wonderful activity in the earlier days but  time was changing and the system became hoary. This convintional wrestling needed modification according to the modern days requirement. But its customs were so powerful that its officials and participants both found it difficult to modify its style. Thus the sport of conventional wrestling or Pahalwani lost its significance and failed to keep pace with the emerging styles in the world.  In Pakistan there wasn't any financial or moral support left for the Pakistani wrestlers.  Gone were the pre-partition days of India when their rulers supported the needs of resident wrestlers. The local Pakistani government did not have any budget to spend on the needs of its wrestlers. Neither there was any highly organized wrestling unit or sports body within the country entirely devoted to cover the needs of Pakistani wrestlers in the region.  In 1952, the freestyle wrestling champion, Syed Saif Shah and Sardar Khan came from England and introduced Freestyle wrestling in Pakistan. They contested the Indian wrestlers in freestyle bouts. During  this session the Pakistani Public demanded the Bholu Brothers to show up in the ring. Every professional wrestler has to compete in order to survive. Therefore Aslam Pahalwan switched to freestyle professional wrestling and a series of freestyle wrestling bouts sparked up in Pakistan. After this tenure many foreign wrestlers showed up in Pakistan. The director of Western Athletic Club of America, Mr. Ted Thai also came to Pakistan. Every  wrestler was for himself. “IT WAS THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST”.    

As a freestyle fighter, Aslam managed to gain impressive reputation by beating some big names of the west. He was very powerful  and Commenced his bouts with a fierce yell and a dynamic charge towards the ring. He used the head butts and flying Kicks to overcome his opponents. And used submission holds like the Boston Crab and bear hug to finish them up. He was a part of the Bholu Brothers wrestling team. Very few western wrestlers would fight him in shoot bouts.  No one could last for more then a few minutes with him.  Aslam loved to take on challenges and refused to lose for money. He scored around 400 wrestling victories. It is a Known fact, that Aslam Pahalwan, “the indomitable lion of Pakistan” in a shocking competition obtained victory over on the popular Tiger Sucha Singh of India in the National Stadium of Karachi.

He  won the Commonwealth Championship in 1953. In May, the wrestling promoters introduced the Bholu Brothers Aslam and Akram in East Africa. In April 1953, he fought in Nairobi, Kenya and defeated their champion Mahindar Singh in a brief contest. In 1953, Aslam wanted to wrestle for the world championship therefore he summoned wrestlers from all over the world and put near about Rupees 100,000/- on line, as an attraction for the lucky winner.  Then came the excellent Tarlok Singh of India in a freestyle-fight against Pakistan's Aslam Pahalwan.  The indomitable lion flattened the challenger in the second round.   In 1954, he wrestled  in Bombay and Jalandhar against foreign professionals that operated in India . The same year he defeated Zebra Kid and Ron Harrison in Pakistan.  

The former world champion Bert Assirati called out Gama to a wrestling match. But Gama had retired from wrestling so he cant compete. Therefore in his place, Aslam Pahalwan was sent to Bombay, the residence of Assirati. This was to be the most difficult match of Aslam's wrestling career because Assirati was a highly regarded westerner. He was rated No.2 in the world ratings by the ring magazine.  On 3rd June 1954, Aslam caused a large revolt in the wrestling world by defeating the Empire Champion in Bombay.    Aslam received a reward of Rs. 10,000/- by an Indian entrepreneur for this victor. In January 1955 Aslam Pahalwan defeated Bill Verna , Kid Zemboa and Ron Harrison in Karachi.

In 1957 Aslam Pahalwan  announced one hundred thousand dollar ($100,000/-) reward to anyone who could beat him in wrestling. The Wrestling promoter G.S. Dharan arranged his fights in Singapore and Malaysia. An International wrestling tournament was organized in which thirty famous wrestlers including , King Kong, Basco Bo,  Roy Heffernan,  Charles Henry,  Tiger Ray Holden, , Bloorma, Sky Hi Lee , George Pencheff , George Zbisko, Zbisko-2, Shaikh Wadi Ayoub, Ricky Waldo and Baron von Heczey  met in the ring. Aslam went roaring like a lion throughout these matches turning his adversaries into bloody mess while he himself remained unhurt. On 29 November 1957, the top ranking Arabian wrestler, Sheikh Ali ben Yousseff  a.k.a Shaikh Wadi Ayoub fought  against Aslam Pahalwan at the Happy World Stadium in Singapore. Aslam proved the toughest opponent in Ali's career.  The Arabian wrestler lost this match after a fierce contest.  In March 1958, Aslam defeated the man mountain " King Kong" (Emil Czaja) and Basco Bo in Singapore. King Kong was one of the world's top ranking wrestler in those times. He had beatn many well known wrestlers including Dara Singh, Syed Saif Shah and Shaikh Wadi Ayoub in International bouts.  Aslam also indulged in bouts with  Ricky Waldo.  The black wrestler held Aslam other then that no one could last for more then a few minutes with him. Because of these fights Aslam was called  the Champion of Asia (Rustam-e-Asia).

On 20, September 1958, Aslam teamed up with his younger brother Akram in a tag team fight against King Kong and his partner Shaikh Wadi Ayoub. This was an hour long non stop fight held for the second time at the Happy World Stadium after more then a year. Extra police had to be summoned to keep the excited crowed under control. After this triumphant tour he returned to Pakistan where in a match in Karachi  he defeated the famed Indian wrestler, Arjun Singh. Arjun  had offered a $1000 reward to anyone who could beat him.  

In 1962, he defeated Dara Singh's younger brother, Tiger Joginder and the British veteran " Sitting Bull ".  Aslam then defeated   Sheik Wadi Ayoub in Karachi.  In  May 1962, he also defeated  Lofty Binnie of New Zealand and the man mountain" King Kong"  in Karachi in front of  60,000/- fans.  In 1963, he defeated the Canadian wrestler , Paul "Butcher" Vachon in Karachi after Paul had beaten his younger brother Azam. In 1967 promoter Christopher Whelan and Faheemuddin Fehmi arranged a tour of United Kingdom. In Glasgow his first bout was against the Olympic Medalist Jim Armstrong.  Jim  wasn't prepared for the opening onslaught and lasted only a minute.  Aslam later reappeared and defeated the American Champion Ron Reed in the first round. He also defeated Buddy Colt,  Eric Taylor, Guy Mitchell, Mighty Chang Steve Rickard and the Jamaican dropkick expert Jim Moser. He defeated one of the world's leading wrestler, the Canadian Champion; George Gordianko on 24th May 1967. Gordienko’s name was established as a dangerous wrestler during the 60's. Numerous world's champions have been side-stepping him for years.   Aslam later received the presidential award from the President of Pakistan, General Muhammad Ayoub Khan on his victories.  

In 1971 wrestling promoter Orig Williams sponsored his matches in UK. Aslam defeated  various wrestlers including Wild Man of Borneo, Goonga Singh and Wild Angus Campbell. The tour was cut short due to the 1971 India-Pakistan War.  Aslam also wrestled in the Middle East before his retirement from pro wrestling. He died on 7th January 1989. His son Zubair Aslam a.k.a. Jhara Pahalwan was also a well known wrestler.


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