Indian Boxers Ready For Glory And Gold
Indian boxers buoyed by their recent impressive showing may not feel the heat inside the ring but having raised the bar will be under pressure from the expecting fans in the Commonwealth and Asian Games. After Hockey, Wrestling and Tennis, the most watched sports in Delhi Commonwealth Games by the home supporters will be boxing and the Indian pugilists this time will have no excuse but to perform.
Indian boxers performance in Asian Games Boxing has been uneven with only five gold medals to their credit in the last 14 editions. The Gold medal winners were, Hawa Singh (twice), Padam Thapa, Kaur Singh and Dingko Singh. The country however has substantial number of silver and bronze medals from these Games. Padam Thapa earned the distinction of winning the first Boxing Gold in the Asiad for the country in 1962 before a very hostile crowd. But it was unassuming Hawa Singh, who not only brought laurels for the country with his sterling performance but also made Haryana Mecca of Indian Boxing. Hawa Singh won the National title 11 times in a row, right from the year 1961 to 1972 in the Heavyweight Category. He won the Gold in 1966 and 1970 Asiad held at Bangkok, and has been the only Indian Boxer so far to have won two Gold Medals at the Asian Games.
In 1974 Tehran Asiad, Hawa Singh knocked out his Iranian opponent, Bura in the last Round and looked all set for a hat trick of Gold Medals but a controversial decision by the referee deprived him of that honour. After retirement, he gave back to the sports what he earned from it. He founded the Bhiwani Boxing Club at Bhiwani, (Haryana). This club hogged the limelight in 2008 when its four Boxers represented the Country in the Beijing Olympic Games 2008, and two of them Jitender Kumar and Akhil Kumar made it to the Quarter Final Round, while Vijender Kumar did the nation proud by claiming a Bronze Medal. Kaur Singh won before the home crowd in Delhi Asiad and Dingko Singh bagged the next Asiad gold for the country after 16 years and again in Bangkok in 1998.
In 12 editions of the Commonwealth Games in which Indian pugilists have taken part there performance has left much to be
desired as they have won only 13 medals-2 Gold, two silver and nine bronze. Mohd Ali Qamar earned the honour of being the first Indian boxer to claim the Gold in commonwealth Games in 2002 at Manchester and it was followed by Akhil Kumar in Melbourne in 2006.
Intrestingly Indians always complained of getting unfair treatment and decision in the International competitions as long as Pakistan’s Prof Anwar Chaudhary was the president of the International Boxing Federation (IBF). “Yes, this complaint is to some extent correct, but Indians started doing well from 2002 onwards and Chaudhary was the head of the World body at that time, and he narrowly lost the election in 2006 ” said All India Boxing Federation(AIBF) secretary PK Murlidhar Raja. According to Raja,”India’s awesome performance in 2002 Commonwealth Boxing Championship in Glasgow, Scotland put our boxers firmly on the International arena. I don’t think after that any country took us lightly”.
India won the team championship with four gold and three silver medals, but ended runners up in the next edition in 2005 with one gold, two silver and three bronze medals. “The winning of that championship heralded a new chapter in this sport. Our boxers beat several top European and African pugilists which boosted their confidence.” However without doubt the defining moment for the Indian boxing came on August 20, 2008 when Vijender clinched country’s first ever Olympic boxing medal his historic 9-4 victory over Carlos Gongora of Ecuador in middle weight category. “This is a great day for Indian boxing” Vijender had said after that bout though the Boxer from Bhiwani later lost his semi-final match against Cuba’s Emilio Correa, and he was dead right, Indian boxing never looked back after that Bronze medal as got new enthusiasm and motivation.
Indian pugilists enjoyed lot of success in 2009 as Vijender once again hogged the limelight by winning a bronze in world championship. Manipur’s Suranjoy Singh spearheaded country’s
challenge as he won the first Asian Championship gold for India in 15 years. Young Thokchom Nanao Singh and Jai Bhagwan bagged a silver medal each while Jitender Kumar, Vijender Singh, Dinesh Kumar, and Paramjit Samota earned a bronze medal each. This was India’s best performance in 27-year in the elite event in Zhuhai, China. The team was placed third in the overall standings behind hosts China and Uzbekistan.
According to coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu “the boxers made quite a reputation for themselves in the Asian Circuit by beating boxers from some top countries”. Then Olympic and World Championship bronze medalist Vijender achieved yet another first for Indian boxing by becoming the world’s top-ranked pugilist in the middle weight (75kg) category.
The Haryana boxer, who won India’s maiden World Championships medal in Milan aggregated 2700 points and was ranked higher than the reigning champion Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan. Atoev, to whom Vijender lost in the World Championship semifinals, is third in the list with 2100 points and Olympic silver medalist Emilio Correa Bayeux (2500) of Cuba was second in the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) list. Reacting to this honour Vijender said: “I am obviously elated at being ranked the highest in the world. It’s a fantastic feeling and would motivate me to do better in future events”, in between Young Boxers did the Country proud with Vikas Krishan emerging World champion in 60 kgs category while Shiva Thapa finished runners up in 54 kgs in the World Youth Championships at Baku, Azerbaijan had four quarter finalists in this championship in which a total of 466 boxers representing 90 countries took part. India, who finished 4th in the Overall Team Standings with a tally of 22 pts, had four quarter finalists in this championship in which a total of 466 boxers representing 90 Countries took part.
Vikas and Thapa qualified for the 1st Youth Olympic Games at Singapore to be held in August. As this was not enough Indian pugilists made a clean sweep in the finals clinching six-gold medals to win the overall team title at the fifth Commonwealth Boxing Championships here in March. Over 100 boxers from 14 countries took part in this six-day tournament. Though the tournament has suffered a setback after Australia, Canada, Ghana and Pakistan pulled out.
“A few countries like Australia had told us right in the beginning that they have got their domestic commitments. And same was the case with Ireland and few other countries. As far as Pakistan, they probably had their own reasons,” explained Col Raja. “They were also very keen to come; we had sent our team earlier there, and they were also keen to come. There is nothing much. After all, this is an invitational tournament,” he added. Olympian Dinesh Kumar, Asian champion Suranjoy Singh, SAG gold medallist Amandeep Singh, Asian silver medallist Jai Bhagwan, Olympic Bronze winner Vijender and Paramjeet Samota took the top place on the podium.
The Indian Team for this championship comprised of: Amandeep Singh (49 kg), Suranjoy
Singh (52 kg), Akhil Kumar (56 kg), Jai Bhagwan (60 kg), Balwinder Beniwal (64 kg), Vijender Singh (75 kg), Dinesh Kumar (81 kg), Manpreet Singh (91 kg), Paramjeet Samota (+91 kg) “These performances give a strong indication we are on the right track,” Col Raja said. “If we get a good draw in the Commonwealth and Asian Games we will definitely have a lot of medals” Coach Sandhu summed up his boxers showing so far “our boxers started believing they can win medals, talking to my boxers every day, I realise they have medals on their minds”.
The good showing by the pugilists did not go unnoticed by the Sponsors as the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) signed a million dollar sponsorship deal with Monnet Ispat and Energy. According to IBF’s marketing agent Percept “Monnet Ispat and Energy will be sponsoring various national teams including senior men, juniors and sub-juniors along with the senior women, juniors and sub-juniors and taking care of their kits. Monnet is also launching “Fight Nights”, which aims at promoting the sport by combining entertainment with boxing.
The “Fight Night” would be a mix of the entertaining sport of boxing with live entertainment combined with a premium experience for the audience already seen in the US and Europe. This will be India’s first-ever indoor exhibition boxing matches between top Indian and international boxers. The bouts will be held at across the country in malls, multiplexes, clubs, open grounds, and college campuses.
About the sponsorship IBF President Abhay Singh Chautala said: “This is a sign of good work that we have been trying to do, this was just the right boost that we needed to keep working much harder into making our boxers the world beaters that they already are on their way of becoming.” Ace pugilist, Vijender also expressed happiness over the deal, and remarked, “we have the talent but boxing in India needs a supporter like the Monnet Group to take it forward”.
According to Col Raja, Commonwealth Games and Asia will be the real test for the boxers, “we are hopeful of winning three to four gold medals out of ten at stake in the Delhi Commonwealth,” he said. The IBF has shortlisted 44 probable for the Games, “we will be picking up ten-member team for the Games after the Senior Nationals which we have made mandatory for top boxers to participate,” he added.
“We don’t have exact number of participants for the Boxing event in the Games but it is going to be substantial” he said adding that “in all 40 medals(ten gold, ten Silver and 20 Bronze) will be at stake in ten categories.” Col Raja said: “We have very promising boxers who have already proved their worth and we are confident that they will punch their way to glory and gold.”
“Yes there is lot of excitement, buzz and expectations from the pugilists and it is good for Indian boxing. They will have to show that there recent performances were no fluke.” The tough challenge, according to AIBF secretary general will come from, England, Canada, Pakistan, Australia, Wales, Scotland, Nigeria and Ghana. “We are ready for that,” he added.
By Harpal Singh Bedi