Big Bout Indian Boxing League: Potential to make a difference

Even though Big Bout managed to attract only a few overseas boxers, the league — held in December — served as an excellent opportunity for elite Indians to test their skills ahead of the Olympic qualifier.

Punjab Panthers’ M. C. Mary Kom in a bout against Bombay Bullets’ Ingrit Lorena Valencia (in red) during Big Bout Indian Boxing League at the Gautam Buddha University Indoor Stadium, in Greater Noida, in December 2019. The response and excitement from the boxing federation, coaches, boxers and audiences to the maiden boxing league was electrifying.   -  PTI

Notwithstanding the glitches in the inaugural edition in 2019 and the impact of COVID-19 in 2020, the Big Bout Indian Boxing League continues to be close to the heart of champion side Gujarat Giants.

Giants, which won the first and only edition of Big Bout, sees a lot of potential in the boxing league.

“Every new league has some teething issues and the firts edition of the Big Bout was no different. Given the short time between the auction and the tournament, a few last-minute decisions had to be taken. But at the end it was managed very well,” said a spokesperson of Adani Sportsline, the owner of Gujarat Giants, wishing not to be named.

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Even though Big Bout managed to attract only a few overseas boxers, including Ingrit Valencia of Colombia, Francisco Veron of Argentina and Abdulmalik Khalakov of Uzbekistan, the league — held in December — served as an excellent opportunity for elite Indians to test their skills ahead of the Olympic qualifier in the first quarter of 2020.

Top Indians — including six-time world champion M. C. Mary Kom, worlds silver medallist Amit Panghal, Simranjit Kaur, Nikhat Zareen, Sachin Siwach, Ashish Kumar, Naman Tanwar, Kavinder Bisht, Gaurav Solanki and Gaurav Bidhuri — made the most of the opportunity.

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“The feedback we received from the boxers was very encouraging and it definitely boosted their confidence ahead of Olympics qualifiers,” said the spokesperson.

The most satisfying outcome for Giants was the champion’s tag. “Being able to pick up the winner’s trophy and (later) Olympics berths for two of our boxers, Amit and Ashish, was the icing on the cake.”

For a league that took off with very little branding and marketing, the TV ratings were ‘encouraging.’

“The numbers were way ahead of kabaddi and badminton leagues and in the Hindi-speaking market they were only second to IPL,” said Boxing Federation of India (BFI) president Ajay Singh.

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Adani Sportsline, which has a team in the successful Pro Kabaddi league, is hopeful that Big Bout will become financially viable.

Singh agrees. “We will be tweaking the model further to make it beneficial for all the stakeholders.”

Hoping to witness the second edition in end of 2020 or early 2021, Singh said, “The health and safety of our athletes (in the time of the pandemic) are of paramount importance and will be the centre point while we draw the plans.”