A major controversy has erupted in the just-concluded 74th All India Railways Boxing Championship with two-time Olympian, former Commonwealth gold medallist boxer Manoj Kumar alleging how ugly elements had conspired to deprive him of winning the 69-kg weight class.
The All India Railways Boxing Championship was a matter of huge significance for the 33-year-old pugilist, who was staging a comeback to competitive boxing after a prolonged hip injury-induced absence from the ring. As on expected lines, Manoj fought well to reach the finals of the 69-kg weight class, where he was up against Dinesh Dagar, who has also represented the country.
Manoj alleged that he was made to lose the final bout 2-3 despite being a runaway winner largely due to the wrongdoings of senior boxing official Ashok Panwar, who is employed with Railways. The Indian ace pugilist alleged that Ashok Panwar was entrusted with the responsibility of deciding judges for all the bouts of the championship and played his ‘manipulation card’ well engaging his ‘own set of judges’ for his 69-kg final bout.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist alleged that Ashok Panwar and his team fielded same five boxing officials - Vijender Singh, E Ranjit, Devi Singh, Manish Jaiswal and Murli Krishna for his 69-kg final bout against Dinesh Dagar. “Just before my final bout I objected to these five officials officiating because these five officials had officiated in Dinesh Dagar’s 69-kg semfinal bout as well as Manish Panwar’s 81-kg bout and I’m talking about these two bouts because Dinesh Dagar happens to be a nephew of Ashok Panwar and Manish Panwar is his son.”
The International Boxing Federation (AIBA) has laid down stringent rules which state that any official whose family members are taking part in any championship must keep away from being associated with such tourneys. One is not sure why this norm was not adhered to at the All India Railways Boxing Championship
Manoj’s coach Rajesh Kumar, who himself is a former national level boxer, said Manoj was clearly the winner:
Rajesh pointed out that Ashok Panwar is a very senior boxing official and has been manipulating bouts with his ‘own judges’ not just in All India Railway Championship as well as in various other domestic level tourneys. “Careers of many boxers be it seniors or juniors have been ruined by the unbecoming working ways of Ashok Panwar. “If an Olympian like Manoj can be handed such treatment imagine what must have happened to other domestic boxers, including junior boxers,” said Rajesh.
An Indian boxing insider said Ashok Panwar owing to his reputation once came close to being beaten up for his antics at a domestic tourney sometime in 2006-2007.
Manoj Kumar without wasting any time has written about the ‘manipulation antics’ of Ashok Panwar in a strongly-worded letter to Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal, Boxing Federation of India President Ajay Singh and Boxing Federation of India Secretary General Jay Kowli among others.
'I will make it a hattrick of wins if we fight again' - Dinesh Dagar
Dinesh Dagar, on his part, has since hit back at Manoj Kumar, claiming that he will make it three wins a row should the two boxers face off again and put the debate to rest.
Dagar told The Bridge:
Clearly, Manoj Kumar’s return to the ring hasn’t been as he would have liked. One hopes that the boxing officials take serious note and look into the matter.