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Lack of experience on world stage: India's top boxing coaches on World Championships performance

Indian men's boxing team coaches Santiago Nieva and CA Kutappa speak about the team's performance in the World Championships and how they could have improved on their medal haul of just the one bronze.

Indian mens boxing high performance director Santiago Nieva (left) with Akash Kumar (second from left) at the World Boxing Championships 2021 (Source: BFI)

Indian men's boxing high performance director Santiago Nieva (left) with Akash Kumar (second from left) at the World Boxing Championships 2021 (Source: BFI)


Md Imtiaz

Updated: 6 Nov 2021 6:05 AM GMT

India may be returning from the AIBA Men's Boxing World Championships in Belgrade with the solitary medal - Akash Kumar's bronze - but the performance of the young Indian contingent in the ring has kept India's foremost boxing coaches in high spirits. When The Bridge caught up with them for an exclusive chat, Santiago Nieva, High Performance Director of the Indian men's boxing team, and CA Kuttappa, former head coach of the men's boxing team, who had headed the team to the Tokyo Olympics, were all praises.

"I am quite satisfied with the results. Despite not having the boxers who participated in the Olympics, the new faces showed some promising results in the Worlds," Nieva told The Bridge from Europe.
Debutant Akash Kumar upstaged former Olympic silver-medallist Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela in the quarterfinals, thus ensuring India would be able to maintain its medal-winning streak at the World Championships since 2009, with a blip in 2013.
However, despite sending the largest-ever contingent this time, India won only a single medal.
"Of course, we could have won more medals, but still, I would say they faced off against more experienced boxers with confidence and made it to the quarters. I can only be proud of them," said Nieva.
He said this outcome is a tremendously positive one, particularly after the Olympics, where some of the top boxers failed to cross the quarterfinals hurdle. At the Worlds, five Indians made the quarterfinals, including rank newcomers.
In this team, the trio of Asian medal-winners Deepak Kumar (51kg), Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), and Sanjeet (92kg) formed the experienced core of the 13-member strong squad. Thapa was the only one with prior experience of competing in the world event, having claimed a bronze in the 2015 edition.
Indian boxer Akash Kumar at World Championships 2021 (Source: BFI)

"It's difficult to say if more experienced boxers could have earned India more medals at the World Championships. These boxers who went in the tournament got less than a month's time to be at the camp for the showpiece event. Maybe, some more time would have given us a better result, but yet I would maintain that I am not disappointed here," Nieva said.

Kuttappa appeared to disagree on the experience factor. "Our boys displayed a spirited show at the Worlds. I would say the lack of experience turned out to be a major factor in this tournament. Otherwise, we could have won more medals. They needed a little bit more polish. The whole plan was to give them more international exposure. These boxers are hot-blooded so gaining this experience was crucial for their growth," he said.

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When it comes to hot blooded displays of passion, the lion's share of the headlines have been devoted to 21-year-old Akash, who became only the seventh Indian male boxer to secure a Worlds medal, after ending his campaign with a 0-5 defeat at the marquee competition. He also claimed a prize money of $25,000. A product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, the Services boxer lost his mother to a lung infection in September and competed in the national championships unaware of the tragedy.

"Akash has stunned me. I was watching him from the corner of the ring and was surprised how a debutant was comfortably defeating an Olympic medallist. It was unfortunate that he lost against the Kazakh despite being more fluent in his punches. This is just the beginning, and he still has a long way to go," said Nieva.

Nieva and his team will be heading back to India on Sunday but he says it is "yet to be decided" which tournament would be his focus next.

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