75 years of independence, 75 iconic moments from Indian sports: No 39 - 1998: Dingko Singh wins India’s first boxing gold in 16 years at Asian Games

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.

Dingko Singh landed India’s first boxing gold in the Asian Games in 16 years, Kaur Singh having won the heavy-weight crown in 1982 in Delhi.

Dingko Singh landed India’s first boxing gold in the Asian Games in 16 years, Kaur Singh having won the heavy-weight crown in 1982 in Delhi. | Photo Credit:

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.

India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes.  Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

1998: Dingko Singh wins India’s first boxing gold in 16 years at Asian Games

Dingko Singh landed India’s first boxing gold in the Asian Games in 16 years, Kaur Singh having won the heavy-weight crown in 1982 in Delhi.

Having announced his arrival in the international arena last year with a memorable triumph at the King’s Cup in Bangkok, Dingko was anxiously waiting for the Asian Games. He was spurred by the silver winning effort of Jitender Kumar in the Commonwealth Games.

From the Prime Minister of the country to the Chief Minister of Manipur, everyone congratulated Dingko Singh, who has been promoted to the post of chief petty officer by his employer, the Navy.

Here is a freewheeling interview with the champion boxer:

QHow was the Asian Games experience?

The coaches planned everything for me. I didn’t do well in Kuala Lumpur in the Commonwealth Games, but after coming back I worked hard and my performance went up. I never said that I was ill and can’t train even once. For days together, I trained hard and my coaches were really happy. They were behind me all the time. I improved very well. Once I was in Bangkok, I knew that even the first round would be tough. However, I was not worried about my opponents. When two boxers fight, one has to lose for sure. I have never fought as well as I did in the four bouts in the Asian Games.

QWere you trying to prove a point?

No, I was relaxed, and there was no tension at all .My mind was completely focused on the fight and I was only thinking about handling the opponent and nothing else.

Q So, the relaxed approach helped you?

Absolutely. I was very relaxed. I felt very pleased winning bout after bout. The good thing was I was getting rest in between the bouts. It helped me a lot to recover and prepare for the next fight.

QYou beat the World Cup silver medallist and the world No. 3 Sontaya Wongprates of Thailand in front of frenzied home supporters. This should have been your toughest bout.

Undoubtedly, it was. I felt more happy beating the local lad than winning the final itself. I felt so thrilled beating the Thai that I can’t describe it in words. Both the coaches B. I. Fernandez and Gurbax Sandhu were so happy that they had tears in their eyes.

QWill you rate it as your best fight ever?

 In this competition it was the best bout for me. The Thai troubled me and I also troubled him. It was a very good fight.

QHow was the first fight, the one against the Chinese Hongtao Wei?

The Chinese was a medallist in the Goodwill Games. They have obviously fielded him in a lot more championships than us. They are more experienced than us. It was the blessings of my mother, sisters and by God’s grace that I won the gold, beating all these world class boxers. The one positive factor was that I was a lot quicker than my opponents, both in movements and punches.

QYou outclassed the Cambodian Vireak Svay in the quarterfinal.

 It was a routine bout. No competition from the opponent at all.

QWere you confident of winning the gold, once you won the semifinal against the favourite Sontaya Wongprates? The finalist, Uzbek Timur Tulyakov, had beaten the world No. 1 Font Waldemar of Cuba.

I was confident of doing well, and was not worried at all. But, in boxing you never know. It is a matter of one good punch. Jitender Kumar fought so well but lost by one point. Gurcharan Singh and Harpal Singh also fought superbly. But they were perhaps not destined to achieve what I did.

QWas there any pressure on you before the final, as no Indian had won an Asian Games gold for 16 years?

My coaches did not tell me all that. They just said, ‘Dingko, don’t worry about winning or losing. Box the way you know best. You have practised so much.’

QThe reaction from the public is tremendous after your gold medal in the Asian Games. This was not the case when you won gold in the King’s Cup.

Yes, there is a big difference. King’s Cup was not a small competition either. It is a world ranking tournament. If you look at the quality of opposition, both the championships are equally tough. However, King’s Cup gold does not get you much. At least not as much as the Asian Games gold. Look at so many welcomes and so many rewards. That is the difference.

QYour future plans?

I have got some suggestions as to how I should prepare. I want to go out to European countries for training to get ready for the Olympics.

Q What are the areas in which you require improvement?

 I have to improve everything. All aspects have to be improved. If I want to do something in Olympics I have to improve a lot.

QThree Indian boxers have become professionals and had some success also. Would you like to turn professional?

I don’t want to become a professional. I don’t like the idea of fighting for money. It doesn’t attract me. Representing the country and earning a name is what I am keen on. If I can’t do that, I will sit at home, but will not become a professional.

QWhat are your hobbies?

Boxing is my full-time hobby! I listen to music and watch films.

QA lot of youngsters would like to imitate you. What would you like to tell them?

 You should practise hard, and wholeheartedly. Listen to the coaches. Study at the right time and play at the right time. Of course, you can’t succeed in two things at a time. You can’t do well in studies and boxing at the same time. You have to sacrifice one. If you become a good sportsman, you may have to lose your studies. I was like that. But, you should decide about it, not your parents.

[ This article was first published in the Sportstar issue dated January 16, 1999]

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