Chugging along on ‘borrowed’ glory

Pinki Rani Jangra,who won the flyweight final against Rebecca Lalinmawii (Manipur), seemed to be in a different league at the National Championship in Raipur.-R. V. MOORTHY Pinki Rani Jangra,who won the flyweight final against Rebecca Lalinmawii (Manipur), seemed to be in a different league at the National Championship in Raipur.

The lop-sided bouts and too many technical knockouts (TKO) until the quarterfinal stage underlined the fact that women’s boxing is yet to take off in the country, writes S. Sabanayakan.

The newly formed Boxing India faced its first real test when it hosted the Monnet Steel elite women’s National Championship in Raipur (capital of Chhattisgarh), and it emerged with reasonable success. The effort served two purposes: a) to revive boxing in the country and b) to provide the right platform for boxers to contest for a place in the Indian team for the upcoming World Championship (Jeju City, South Korea, November 13-25). On both counts, the championship attained its objectives.

The Incheon Asian Games medal winners, M. C. Mary Kom (gold), Laishram Sarita Devi and Pooja Rani (both bronze) were “allowed” to skip the championship. The rest of the nation’s boxers pitted their might against each other in the 10 weight categories.

It is indeed a fact that women’s boxing is yet to take off in the country. The lop-sided bouts and too many technical knockouts (TKO) until the quarterfinal stage only highlighted this point. Barring boxers from Haryana, Manipur and, to some extent, Mizoram and Assam, and the two units, Railways and the All India Police, most of the others failed to make an impact.

Some of the States, completely devoid of any infrastructure to run the sport, borrowed boxers mostly from Manipur and Haryana. Nearly all the boxers who represented Arunachal Pradesh belonged to Manipur. Priya of Tripura, who won the lightweight (60 kg) silver medal, is actually from Haryana.

The four southern States generally do not borrow boxers. However, when Kerala won a gold medal after almost four years, through the 24-year-old Manipuri, Meena Kumari, in the bantamweight class, it raised many an eyebrow. Coach Chandralal of Kerala said, “Meena indeed is from Manipur. She is a sparring partner of Sarita Devi and both come to me for training before big events. Meena decided to stay back and train under me for the past one year.”

SARJUBALA of Manipur, who took the light flyweight title, was among the most impressive boxers in the tournament.-C. V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The lower weight divisions saw some outstanding performances. Watching the higher weight classes proved to be a laborious exercise.

Sh. Sarjubala (Manipur, light flyweight), Rebecca Lalinmawii (Mizoram, flyweight), Meena Kumari (Kerala, bantamweight) and Pawilao Basumatary (Railways, featherweight) were some of the most impressive boxers on view. Pinki Rani Jangra (Railways), winner in flyweight division, looked to be in a different league. After all, she is the only pugilist to have beaten the great Mary Kom more than once in competitive boxing.

The technical conduct of the championship was of very high order. Two standard rings, enough technical officials and generally fair decisions marked the conduct of the championship. The Meena Kumari versus Sonia bout in the bantamweight division was very close, with the former getting the nod. In the featherweight division, Preeti Beniwal (All India Police) seemed to have out-boxed her energetic rival from Railways, Pwilao Basumatary, but still ended on the losing side.

According to Jay Kowli, the Boxing India Secretary General, participation in the National Championship will be made mandatory regardless of the boxers’ stature. “If anybody wants to represent India in the international arena, he or she has to come through the National meet. We will make exceptions to the rule, but only on solid grounds,” he said.

Kowli, who was a boxer himself, knows a thing or two about the sport and the manner in which it is run in different States. He indicated that Boxing India would make every effort to revive the sport in all the affiliated States so that “borrowing” of boxers would come down. “Stricter rules would be formulated to stop this practice,” he added.

“Boxing India is still in a nascent stage; it is yet to get government sanction and affiliation to the Indian Olympic Association (IOA). We need a little more time to settle down before setting the house in order,” Kowli said.

There was hardly any crowd to witness and cheer the boxers, though the organising committee could have easily invited schoolchildren on a daily basis. Taking the National Championship to a place like Raipur is to popularise the sport. Yet no sincere effort was made to achieve this.

Many officials of different State sports associations stayed away from the meet because they did not get invitations. “We don’t know how we will be treated by the unknowns,” said Mohammad Akram Khan, the Secretary of the Chhattisgarh Volleyball Association. “Normally when we host a National meet, we involve all the associations. This gives the feeling that the entire city is behind the effort. But this championship lacked that,” he fumed.