Five pugilists from Services turn pro after Defence Ministry's nod

Manpreet Singh, Som Bahadur Pun, Sanjay Kolte, Santosh Harijan and Vipin Kumar from the Services have signed up with the Indian Boxing Council.

Asian Games silver medallist Manpreet Singh (left) has signed up with the Indian Boxing Council (IBC) to compete in professional boxing.   -  K.K. Najeeb

Five boxers from the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) have signed contracts to feature in professional bouts following the Defence Ministry's nod to allow pugilists employed with the armed forces to turn pro.

The development has come at a time when the International Boxing Association (AIBA), which opened the gate for pro boxers for the Rio Olympics earlier this year, has decided to allow professional boxers' participation in other amateur events.

The Boxing Federation of India (BFI) leadership has also shown its keenness towards getting amateur and pro boxing under one umbrella so that the best pugilists represent the country at the international level.

Boxers, including Asian Games silver medallist Manpreet Singh, Commonwealth Games silver medallist Som Bahadur Pun, World Military Games gold medallist Sanjay Kolte, former junior Asian champion Santosh Harijan and former World cadet champion Vipin Kumar, have signed up with the Indian Boxing Council (IBC) to compete in professional boxing.

“The Union Defence Minister has allowed the Services boxers to turn pro. They can do so after getting approval from their respective departments,” said IBC president Brig (retd) P.K. Muralidharan Raja.

Guidelines for hiring

According to Brig. Raja, certain guidelines have to be followed while hiring boxers from the armed forces. “There has to be a salary cap, there cannot be any auction of the boxers and they will have to wear the Services logo.

“When a boxer is selected for a National camp or international event, then he will be released for it. National duty will get top priority.”

Thirty-five-year-old Som Bahadur, who last boxed in an amateur bout in 2008, was thrilled about his prospective return to the boxing ring. “I always nurtured the desire to box as a professional. Nice that I have got the permission. I have completed my diploma from NIS Patiala and have been coaching Army boxers at the 58 Gorkha Training Centre in Shillong. So, I have been in touch with boxing,” said Som Bahadur.

Pun will fight in super middleweight, while Manpreet will compete in cruiser weight. Kolte, Santosh and Vipin may be fitted into categories such as lightweight and super featherweight.

“Kolte, Santosh and Vipin are good boxers who can vie for Asia and World titles. So, no point clubbing them together. We will find suitable categories for them,” said Brig. Raja.

Meanwhile, some other top names in men and women boxing are likely to join the bandwagon.