Dingko is back & winning

KAMESH SRINIVASAN

THE return of Asian Games gold medallist Dingko Singh to the ring was the biggest positive aspect in the 48th edition of the National boxing championship in New Delhi.

The victorious Services team.-SANDEEP SAXENA

After a long lay-off, because of a wrist injury, Dingko scotched all apprehensions about his ability to fight again, with a majestic march to the title in the featherweight class.

Dingko was a class act as he played around with his opponents, scoring with ease. However, he expressed doubts about his own ability to regain full fitness for a challenging task like the Commonwealth Games to be held in Manchester.

To be fair, there is enough time for Dingko to regain his golden touch. Yet, being a moody person, Dingko has his own ways of looking at things. It will be up to the national coach, G. S. Sandhu, to ensure the availability of a champion boxer like Dingko Singh for the important assignments this year.

Without any doubt, there is no boxer who can match Dingko's mastery in any weight category, in the country. In terms of speed, ring craft and the ability to gauge an opponent, Dingko is second to none. More than anything else, he has the uncanny ability to get his punches through, and keeps dancing around, making it difficult for his opponent to focus on the target.

Jitender Kumar, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, was himself quite fluent and ended up knocking out boxers, including one in the final within 30 seconds, on way to the heavyweight title. But, Jitender's best chances would be in the middle and light heavyweight sections, if he aspires to excel in the Commonwealth and the Asian Games later in the season.

Mohammed Ali Qamar, Olympian Suresh Singh, P. Ramanand were some of the other impressive winners, as they re-established their credentials in the light flyweight, flyweight and lightweight sections.

Dilbagh Singh surprised defending champion Bhagya Rajan in the welterweight final, thanks mainly to an early advantage gained with quick punches. If he trains harder, Bhagya Rajan may be the one to look up to, to deliver medals in international competitions.

Diwakar Prasad and Som Bahadur Pun with the Best Boxers Trophies.-SANDEEP SAXENA

In a sharp shift from tradition, two boxers, Diwakar Prasad of the Steel Plant and Som Bahadur Pun of Services, were adjudged the Best Boxers of the championship.

For all practical purposes, Dingko Singh was the best, as was the case when he last fought the national championship in Shimla in 2000. This trend to please or provide confidence to other boxers, may not be the right method to boost the performance of the pugilists. But then, such awards are subjective, and can always be debated either way.

The real yardstick eventually for the boxers will be their performances in the international arena. It will be up to the likes of Dingko Singh and Jitender Kumar to come to the rescue of national pride, especially so in the absence of Gurcharan Singh who missed the Olympic bronze in Sydney by one punch, and has since defected the country.

Lalit Prasad, the six-time National champion and two-time National Games champion, called it quits after being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the middleweight class. Another notable loss was the defeat of Birju Sah, the erstwhile specialist who had won the Best Boxer awards in National championship and the YMCA international championship apart from winning the Commonwealth and Asian Games bronze medals.

Birju ended up at the receiving end against Ramanand, and must have realised that there was no value for experience in boxing, if it was not backed by hard training and sound fitness.

With the seasoned Cuban coach B. I. Fernandez, who had struck such a brilliant rapport with the Indian boxing fraternity, having given way to one from Bulgaria, as the foreign coach attached to the Indian team, there will be a new beginning, perhaps with a new system of training. With a new set-up handling the functions of the national boxing federation, it will be some time before things settle down.

Dingko Singh (blue) in action against H. Raju in the featherweight final. Dingko won this bout with ease.-SANDEEP SAXENA

One thing is for sure. If the proven champions are not handled with care, Indian boxing may hit the reverse button, in quick time. For, there is no exciting talent on the horizon, waiting to break free. We need to nurse what we have.

The results:

Lightweight (final): Mohammed Ali Qamar (Rlys) bt S. B. Thapa (AR) 20-7; Semifinals: S. B. Thapa bt Ravi Kumar (Har) 14-7; Mohammed Ali Qamar bt Rosema Coloney (Serv) 13-5.

Flyweight (final): S. Suresh Singh (CISF) bt Akhil Kumar (Rlys) 7-10; Semifinals: Suresh Singh bt Mohammed Safdar Khan (Ben) RSC 4th round; Akhil Kumar bt Sundi Raju (AP) 14-12.

Bantamweight (final): Diwakar Prasad (SPSB) bt G. Durga Prasad (Rlys) 16-8; Semifinals: G. Durga Prasad bt P. Rajesh (TN) 13-8; Diwakar Prasad bt Dalvir Singh (AIP) 19-10.

Featherweight (final): Dingko Singh (Serv) bt H. Raju (AP) 19-5; Semifinals: H. Raju bt Lalit Singh (Del) 174; Dingko Singh bt Navin Dev (Har) RSC 3rd round.

Lightweight (final): P. Ramanand (Serv) bt Zothan Mawia (AIP) 18-10; Semifinals: P. Ramanand bt Parveen Kumar (CISF) 27-17; Zothan Mawia bt Devenar Lakhmichand (Del) 11-11 (61-43).

Light welterweight (final): Som Bahadur Pun (Serv) bt K. Sanjit Singh (AR) 21-7; Semifinals: Som Bahadur Pun bt Subodh Kumar (Rlys) 21-7; K. Sanjit Singh bt S. K. Saif-ul Alam (Ben) RSC 2nd round.

Welterweight (final): Dilbagh Singh (AIP) bt Bhagya Rajan (Serv) 17-13; Semifinals: Bhagya Rajan bt Ram Gautam (Del) 16-2; Dilbagh Singh bt E. Ranjit Mani (AP) 14-7.

Light middleweight (final): Satish Ghanghas (Serv) bt Rajesh Kumar (AIP) RSC 4th round; Semifinals: Satish Ghanghas bt Shriram Padwal (Mah) RSC 2nd round; Rajesh Kumar bt Harpreet Singh (Har) 22-17.

Middleweight (final): Hardeep Singh (Serv) bt S. K. Thapa (AR) 12-9; Semifinals: Hardeep Singh bt Rajbir Singh retired 4th round; S. K. Thapa bt Ajitpal Singh (Chat) 15-10.

Light heavyweight (final): Harpreet Singh (Rlys) bt Gurusahib Singh (Serv) 24-7; Semifinals: Harpreet Singh bt Surinder Singh (Har) RSC 3rd round; Gurusahib Singh bt Raj Kumar (AIP) 28-14.

Heavyweight (final): Jitender Kumar (Rlys) bt Harvinder Singh (Serv) K.O. 1st round; Semifinals: Jitender Kumar bt Anil Kumar (MP) RSC 1st round; Harvinder Singh bt Puneet Yadav (Har) RSC 2nd round.

Super heavyweight (final): Harpal Singh (Pun) bt Vikrant Gautam (AIP) RSC 2nd round; Semifinals: Vikrant Gautam bt Kanu Choudhary (Guj) RSC 2nd round; Harpal Singh bt Parminder Singh (Har) RSC 3rd round.

Best boxers: Diwakar Prasad and Som Bahadur Pun.

Team championship: 1. Services 57 points, 2. Railways 41, 3. All India Police 30.