Indian boxing team leaves for world championships in Belgrade
The squad left to compete in the world championships starting on October 24, hopeful of offsetting the disappointment of an underwhelming Olympic campaign
The Indian men's boxing team, comprising the likes of Asian medal-winners Deepak Kumar (51kg), Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), Sanjeet (92kg), left for Belgrade on Wednesday to compete in the world championships starting on October 24, hopeful of offsetting the disappointment of an underwhelming Olympic campaign.
The trio forms the experienced core of the 13-strong squad, which is made up of this year's national champions. Of these, Thapa is the only one with prior experience of competing in the world event, having claimed a bronze in the 2015 edition.
The boxers are accompanied by a rejigged support staff led by High-Performance Director Santiago Nieva and newly-appointed head coach Narender Rana with former Commonwealth Games silver-medallist L Devendro Singh among the assistant coaches. This would be Nieva's final assignment with the Indian team after the Boxing Federation of India decided against giving him a long-term extension at the end of the Tokyo Olympics, where none of the male boxers could go past the preliminary rounds.
The world championships would be the boxers' first international competitive outing after the Tokyo Games. The preparation for it has been far from ideal as the boxers got just about 10 days to practice in a camp after the national championship.
The five men who competed in Tokyo, including the last world championships silver-medallist Amit Panghal (51kg), could not make the squad after skipping the national championship owing to niggles and "lack of preparation time".
Panghal had scripted history with his silver in the world event in 2019 as he was the first Indian to achieve the feat. The showpiece in Belgrade will be competed in the revamped weight categories that the International Boxing Association (AIBA) announced earlier this year.
The revised weight divisions for men, after being increased from 10 to 13, are 48kg, 51kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 63.5kg, 67kg, 71kg, 75kg, 80kg, 86kg, 92kg, and +92kg. More than 600 boxers from 105 countries are set to fight it out in the tournament where gold-winners will walk away with a prize money of USD 100,000. The silver medallists are to be given USD 50,000, and both bronze-medallists will be awarded USD 25,000 each.
"We have a really good team. And I believe all of us are going to do well. It is my third world championship and it would be memorable if I win a medal," Thapa had told PTI in an interview. It will feature AIBA world champions, including Andy Cruz Gomez, Roniel Iglesias, Arlen Lopez, Julio La Cruz, as well as Lazaro Alvarez, all from Cuba.
The AIBA has decided to introduce commemorative belts and white gloves, instead of the traditional red and blue, during the tournament, calling the move a symbol of "fresh start"in the controversy-marred sport.
A fresh start would be crucial in the backdrop of the damning revelations that came from an independent investigation into judging in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
The Indian squad: Govind Sahani (48kg), Deepak Kumar (51kg), Akash (54kg), Rohit Mor (57kg), Varinder Singh (60kg), Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), Akash (67kg), Nishant Dev(71kg), Sumit (75kg), Sachin Kumar (80kg), Lakshya (86kg), Sanjeet (92kg) and Narender (+92kg).