There is a breath of ‘positive’ air about Indian boxing these days. And a much-needed one after what has engulfed Indian boxing over the last five-six years.
Rewind to 2012 – when the then Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) was derecognised by the International Boxing Federation (AIBA) and was subsequently derecognised by the Sports Ministry. The boxing affairs in India were later run by an AIBA-appointed ad-hoc committee for quite some time, headed by Kishan Narsi.
Things came to such a pass that the Indian boxers were in danger of missing participation in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Thankfully, the AIBA took a soft line seeing the administrative progress being made towards creating a new federation (which was the world body’s sole mandate) and extended the deadline for setting up a federation. In fact, Indian pugilists did take part in the 2016 Olympics under the AIBA flag.
Finally, a semblance of normalcy was restored in Indian boxing when the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) took charge in late September with SpiceJet CEO Ajay Singh emerging as the BFI President. With BFI in place, many boxers must have heaved a sigh of relief as they were staring at an uncertain future as national tourneys, camps, international exposure trips, etc took a backseat – mind you, this turmoil lasted for more than four years, damaging Indian boxing significantly or at least took Indian boxing backyards.
“It was the worst phase of Indian boxing. Boxers coming through the junior and sub-junior ranks were demoralised as national competitions came to a standstill during that time. Remember the 2016 Olympics when our boxers participated under the AIBA flag,” says former Indian boxing coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu.
The Dronacharya awardee who served as chief national coach for a whopping 24 years – from 1993 to 2017-end – has seen many boxing careers shape all these years. He knows what he is talking when he says that Indian boxing in safe hands now. “Just look at the 2012-17 period, how many international trips our boxers undertook? Fast-forward to 2018 – our boxers are regularly travelling abroad. Be the senior men’s team, women’s team or the junior boys and girls’ teams, they are frequently out of the country on exposure trips abroad. At times, two or three teams are out of the country at the same time; all these augurs well for Indian boxing,” Sandhu says matter-of-factly.
Indian boxing lovers would have little doubt that the Boxing Federation of India taking charge is the best thing to have happened to Indian boxing. “Every boxer need is well taken care of now. Our boxers have no scope for excuses; they are getting good sparring partners on overseas tours and all they have to deliver in the upcoming Asian Games,” he stated.
The former national coach was little surprised with the rich haul of 9 medals (3 gold, 3 silver, and 3 bronze) at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. “I’m confident about our boxers coming home with an impressive medal haul from the 2018 Asian Games. With the kind of preparations our boxers are going through they should improve on their five-medal haul at the 2014 Asian Games – a performance Gurbaksh terms it as ‘Superb’. “You have no federation in place and our boxers are playing under the AIBA flag and winning five medals in such a scenario was simply remarkable,” he quips.