"Competition system in India is well behind big boxing countries and it needs to seize the momentum back," says outgoing High Performance Director Santiago Nieva, whose stint with India produced many a good results but the nation's lacklustre show at the Tokyo Games left him a tad disappointed.
The Swede strongly believes that the "missed medals" in Tokyo Games can be a certainty at the Paris Olympics if the right moves are made. The encouraging results from the Indian boxers in run up to the Tokyo Games build the hype but the pugilists failed to live up to expectations as only Lovlina Borgohain returned with a medal. "The biggest (regret) of all was the Tokyo Olympics. We targeted more medals. I know that our team was better than the result. Not getting medals in the men's section was a disappointment," Nieva told PTI.
"We are in a good position now. The medals that we didn't win in Tokyo should come in 2024 but we need to work and improve in certain areas." In a surprise decision, Nieva decided to end his five-year stint with the Indian Boxing as he accepted an offer from Boxing Australia. He bids Indian boxing adieu having helped delivered impressive results. Amit Panghal won a silver at the 2019 men's World Championships and country had its highest-ever participation at the Tokyo Games. "I look at the big picture and I am happy with my time here, I was part of several best-ever results in big competitions. It was a great experience."
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, India hosted a range of events and Nieva feels it is imperative that the country starts organising tournaments once again. This will attract top pugilists from across the world and the Indian boxers would thus no longer be dependent on travelling abroad for training. "Competition system in India is well behind the big boxing countries. We started fight nights but with the pandemic we are a little behind and this is something we need to get back on track. "In the first few years I was here we had the India Open tournament. We had a team, the Indian Tigers in world series, we started the Big Bout League and we were organising the youth championships for girls and women so we were in great momentum.
"We need to get back to the same mentality and again be a leader in organising international competitions and not depend on having to go abroad for competition and training. We want other countries to come to India." Nieva says for Indian boxers to battle with the best in the business, the infrastructure provided to them should be at par with that of top countries. "We want to be the best in the world. We are not satisfied with being number 5 or 10. If we are comparing ourselves to the best we need infrastructure like them, if not better.
"And while India has come a long way in the past five years, there is still room for improvement. Our training centres, high performance centres in the states, there is a lot that can be improved infrastructure wise and it has improved from 2017. "In Patiala, the boxing hall has changed so much since I got here. It has doubled in size, has new and better equipments. It is a high performance centre now. But still there is good room of improvement. Since last year things have improved and in the next 2-3 years it will be way better than they are now.
We are building a good system." Despite the underwhelming campaign in Tokyo, Nieva is optimistic of a good show at the Commonwealth Games later this year. He feels the Indian boxers will have to up the ante for the postponed Asian Games, which will see participation from boxing powerhouses like Uzbekistan and Philippines among others. "India has great talent, I am expecting a tremendous performance in the Commonwealth Games. Last time there were three gold medals there is good chance we'll get more this time, the boxers are stronger than they were in 2018. "But Asian Games is a different story because they will need to get their top game."