National Women's boxing: BFI looks to set the ball rolling

As the newly-elected Boxing Federation of India (BFI) has taken the first step towards resuming domestic competitions by conducting the National women’s championship, starting at the Reserve Police Lines Hall here from Saturday, the boxing family has heaved a sigh of relief.

Sarjubala Devi and Saweety Boora will be among the main attraction in the event.   -  H.Vibhu

The boxing fraternity is welcoming another new beginning and hoping that the four years of administrative mess is finally over.

As the newly-elected Boxing Federation of India (BFI) has taken the first step towards resuming domestic competitions by conducting the National women’s championship, starting at the Reserve Police Lines Hall here from Saturday, the boxing family has heaved a sigh of relief.

The boxers were the worst sufferers due to the ugly fight involving different factions in the last four years, prompting the International Boxing Association (AIBA) to take the extreme step of derecognising the Indian federation twice.

The last National championship for women under a unified boxing body was held two years ago at Raipur. Without any domestic competition and exposure trips, the progress of a generation of boxers, who would have graduated from junior to senior level, was severely dented. It affected the country’s bench strength.

"Since there was no competition, we do not know about the up-and-coming boxers to be seen in action at the National championship. Many of the old timers are still hanging around as there is no challenge for them,” said seasoned coach Anoop Kumar.

The positive side of the story is that there is plenty of hope and expectation. The boxers are the happiest lot. Since the BFI has made the event mandatory (to be eligible for selection for international events), most of the top boxers, barring a few exceptions, are expected to take part.

World championship silver medallists Sarjubala Devi and Saweety Boora, former World junior champion Nikhat Zareen will be among the well-known names who will compete in the event.

However, five-time World champion and Olympic medallist M.C. Mary Kom and former World and multiple Asian champion Sarita Devi are likely to skip the competition due to different reasons.

"It is good for the boxers that the National championship is happening again. We were desperate to compete and show our skills, but there was no federation. I hope we can see some good fights," said Saweety.

Another experienced boxer Preeti Beniwal agreed. “The biggest losers during this phase of uncertainty were the boxers. Good that the domestic calendar has resumed.”

Meanwhile, the BFI is also saddled with the job of setting its house in order due to the recurrent administrative inaction. “It is a herculean task to take care of the administrative side and hold events simultaneously. But we are giving our best to sort out all issues,” said BFI secretary Jay Kowli.

The other challenge is getting officials into competition mode. Since the AIBA rules have changed a lot and the officials are not used to those, the BFI briefed the referee-judges and coaches about the developments in the sport ahead of the National championship.