Wrestling champion defends 18-year win streak

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A champion wrestler has stepped out of the ring with his 18-year win streak intact.

Pakistan’s number one heavyweight Shak Khan, 43, was crowned the winner at his retirement match after a bruising battle with Austrian champion Michael Kovac in Birmingham last week.

Shak, who lives with his wife Karen in South Shore, said: “It was the most difficult fight in my whole career. I got smashed from pillar to post. But I managed to pin him around the 20 minute mark, defended my title and kept my championship belt.

“I have to give every credit to my opponent. He was incredibly fit and strong. You could see it in his eyes that he came to beat me.”

Despite his retirement plans, Shak is by no means hanging up his championship belt for good, as he waves goodbye to the resort and heads to Azad Kashmir in Pakistan, where he plans to organise an international wrestling tournament at the Dadyal Stadium in April.

He has also announced plans to open Blackpool’s very first wrestling school, the Shak Khan Professional Wrestling Academy on Charles Street, at the end of the month.

He said: “Wrestling gets into your blood. You come out to the music and the fans and people taking pictures. You’re a different person when you come out of that. You feel like a movie star.

“I will be sad to leave Blackpool and my wife and friends, but I won’t be gone for long. Blackpool has its ups and downs, but it’s my home and I want to give something back to the community because they have supported me for many years.”

Shak, who learned to wrestle under the guidance of ‘Dangerous’ Dave Duran at the Blackpool Tower, was crowned heavyweight champion of Azad Kashmir at the age of 25 - a title he has held for 18 years.

He now hopes to find an up-and-coming new wrestling star from Blackpool who he can help train to an international level.

He said: “I want to put Blackpool back on the map again as a hotbed for the sport. If I can find a stand-out star I will fly them out to Pakistan to compete.

“I just want to give something back to the Blackpool community for their love and warmth and support over the years.”