Over the last four years, Indian boxing has lost massively in terms of performance and growth of the boxers and popularity of the sport due to bitter internal squabble.
Between 2008 and 2012 Olympics, boxing touched its peak with the pugilists securing medals in all elite international competitions, including the World championship and Olympics.
Vijender Singh led the way with his bronze medal in the Beijing Games, triggering a self-belief among the fellow Indian boxers that they could also do it. The iconic five-time World champion M.C. Mary Kom took it forward by claiming another bronze medal in London.
“After the Beijing Games, a five-star hotel refused to take money from me after eating at its restaurant; an unknown person recognised us and paid our bills at a dhaba. That was the kind of impact boxing had made at that time,” said G.S. Sandhu, who served as the Chief National Coach.
However, the greed for plum posts in the National federation led to the alleged bungling in the 2012 elections and an ensuing mess carried on to drag India back by several years.
The boxers, especially those who were waiting in the wings to make it to the top level, were left in the lurch without any domestic competition and international exposure trips.
One can still hear an odd grumble and notice the absence of a prominent face as the boxing fraternity has come together for the conduct of the first domestic competition, the National women's championship, under the newly-elected Boxing Federation of India (BFI). The new BFI top brass identifies the major issues, including age-old parochial mindset.
“Regionalism is a big problem. We will make sure that we are Indians first. This is not about states. I have spoken to the coaches, technical officials and selection committee and told them very strictly that there should be no bias in the way they are judging the bouts and the way the boxers are selected,” said BFI president Ajay Singh, who also wears the hat of the Spicejet chairman.
Another challenge is to catch up with other sports. “We need to have a league, we are just trying to settle down. In 2017 we are definitely going to launch a league,” said Ajay Singh.
The BFI also recognises the need for broad-basing the talent pool, finding an efficient team of support staff, involving boxers in the federation and setting up academies and a Centre of Excellence.
The air of positivity generated spring in Mary Kom's stride and the celebrated boxer, who was present here as a guest, encouraged the youngsters to give their best.
“Only one Mary Kom or one Vijender or one Shiva Thapa is not enough. We need more such boxers. You can do that by putting up a lot of hard work,” she said. With a proactive approach, boxing, which has been identified as a medal sport for the 2020 Olympics, can reclaim its old glory.