Eager to ensure that the country's boxers are able to pursue amateur and professional careers simultaneously, the Indian Boxing Council (IBC) wants a dialogue with the national federation on laying down norms for such an arrangement that can "supplement pugilists' income and produce more champions". Speaking to the media ahead of former world medallist Sarjubala Devi's professional debut on Saturday against Tanzania's Kayage Lulu Gaithabi in a 51kg showdown in Dubai, IBC, the licensing body for professional boxing in India, said it is essential that BFI gives its nod for boxers to pursue professional careers. "And Why not?
The International Boxing Association (IBA) allows professionals in its amateur events. It helps them find supplementary income because from one country there can be just one world or Olympic champion in each category in the amateur circuit," IBC President Brig. (Retd) P K Muralidharan Raja said. Currently, the BFI does not have a policy for professional boxers and only allows them to compete in the IBA sanctioned professional events. This could change in the body's Annual General Meeting in the next few weeks where the matter would be up for discussion. "So far, our stand has been to not allow our registered boxers to compete in random pro events because we believe this can cause chaos as we have our own calendar too. But we will have another round of discussions at the AGM and a new policy could be framed soon," BFI Secretary General Hemanta Kalita told PTI.
Raja said he had recently sought the IBA's view on the matter and the world body had no objection. He is still waiting to hear from BFI after having requested them for a conversation. "The IBA reiterated the stated policy to us, that professional boxers are welcome in amateur events. They have been competing in the Olympics since 2016," he pointed out. In the Tokyo Games, Russia's Albert Batyrgaziev and Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov became the first set of professional boxers to win Olympic gold medals. Batyrgaziev defeated a fellow professional in Duke Ragan of the USA in the featherweight finals. Jalolov, on the other hand, entered the competition as the reigning world champion in the super heavyweight division. This was after 40 professional boxers qualified for the Games.
Sarjubala, who spent her amateur career in the shadow of the great M C Mary Kom, also urged the national body to make a clear policy so that boxers are able to sustain themselves better. "During the COVID-19 lockdown, it was especially tough because we didn't know how to train. If we are allowed to explore the professional circuit, then it helps us stay in shape and also improves our endurance," she said ahead of the first six-round contest of her career. Promoter Mujtaba Kamal, who would be at the helm for Sarjubala's fight in Dubai, said professional boxers should not be "made to feel like criminals for simply wanting to have a career."
"There are hundreds of boxers in India, not everyone is going to get a chance to compete in the big ticket amateur events. So what happens to the rest of them? Do they not deserve a shot at greater financial stability? Professional boxing can offer them that," he said. Raja said the money, though not much to start with, goes up substantially once a boxer is able to impress promoters. "So you start with smaller amounts, may be Rs 5,000-10,000 per fight but if you show yourself to be good, it can go up substantially. A boxer can easily earn a lakh per fight but for that, we have to have a good system in place and it is only possible if there is coordination with BFI," he pointed out.