Easy on the hype

Vijender Singh reacts after his victory over Mohammed Haron (Malaysia) in the quarterfinals of the middleweight category (75 kg). Vijender went on to bag the gold in the class and was adjudged the ‘Best Boxer' of the meet.-PTI Vijender Singh reacts after his victory over Mohammed Haron (Malaysia) in the quarterfinals of the middleweight category (75 kg). Vijender went on to bag the gold in the class and was adjudged the ‘Best Boxer' of the meet.

A haul of six gold medals is, no doubt, praiseworthy. But it isn't time to celebrate yet, for tougher challenges lie ahead for the Indian boxers. By Y. B. Sarangi.

The Indian camp was all smiles after its boxers won six gold medals in the XXX Energy Drink Commonwealth Championship at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. This was the best-ever performance by the nation which also claimed the team championship. India's previous best — four gold and three silver medals — was in the Scotland meet in 2005.

India fielded a balanced team for the championship, a test event in the run-up to the Commonwealth Games in October, and the results were mixed. While lesser-known boxers like Amandeep (49 kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91 kg) came up with impressive performances to corner glory, proven ones such as World Cup medallist Akhil Kumar (56 kg) and eight-time National champion Dilbagh Singh (69 kg) unexpectedly crashed out in the first round.

In the quest for a gold medal, challenges were few and far between for Olympic and World Cup medallist Vijender Singh (75 kg), Asian gold medal winner Suranjoy Singh (52 kg), Asian silver medallist Jai Bhagwan (60 kg) and World Cup bronze medallist Dinesh Kumar (81 kg).

Suranjoy Singh jumps for joy after being declared winner in the Flyweight (52 kg) final.-AP

An international gold after a gap of two years came as a big relief for Vijender, who was nominated the ‘Best Boxer' of the championship.

For the young Balwinder Beniwal (64 kg), who aspires to emulate his cousin Vijender, the first round exit would only increase his appetite for success.

The biggest challenge for the Indians came from the English boxers. With their country readying itself for the London Olympics in two years time, it was obvious that the English pugilists would be fully prepared. Fielding a near full-strength squad, it wasn't surprising that England returned with three gold, a silver and three bronze medals.

Ian Weaver, 20, won the hearts of the spectators with his giant-killing act. With sound technique and a thoughtful approach, the youngster stunned Akhil Kumar and Mauritian Olympic bronze medallist Bruno Julie in back-to-back bouts to reach the final. He then won the gold medal and was, justifiably, adjudged the ‘Most Promising Boxer' of the meet.

Dinesh Kumar of India exults after beating Leonard Machichi (Tanzania) in the semifinal of the Light Heavy (81kg) category. Dinesh won the gold in the event.-SANDEEP SAXENA

The absence of other big Commonwealth countries like Australia, Canada and South Africa was felt in the meet. So, it can be concluded that the presence of boxers from these countries would make the Commonwealth Games even tougher.

India's Chief Coach G. S. Sandhu preferred to keep his feet on the ground. “Medals are important, but they are not the sole aim. This (the meet) gave us a chance to test our strengths and weaknesses. We have the time to fine-tune things for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

The important aspect of the meet was that, for the first time the bouts were staged on the basis of new weight categories. Following the inclusion of women's boxing in the London Olympics, the men's competition was reduced from 11 to 10 weight categories. Thus, the dropping of the 54 kg category was bound to have its effect on the Indian boxers.

Ian Weaver of England (in blue) lands a punch on India's Akhil Kumar in the Bantamweight (56kg) category. Weaver won the bout. He was later adjudged the 'Most Promising Boxer' of the meet.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Considering the fact that Indians are not cut out for heavyweight boxing, the country's forte has been the lower weight categories. Because of the changes, someone like Nanao Singh, the World youth champion, may find it difficult to move up from 48-49 kg. Experts are of the view that Nanao's lack of height may be a hindrance for the boxer in this regard.

Now, an accomplished boxer like Suranjoy has to fight a kg above his normal weight class, while another achiever Jitender Kumar has to sit out to make way for Akhil Kumar.

“We would have loved if one of the higher weights had been dropped. But it has not happened that way and we have to live with it,” Sandhu said.

During the event, there was a buzz about bringing in the video referral system to deliver better justice to the boxers. The Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) President, Abhay Singh Chautala, said he had sent a request to the international body in this regard. If adopted, like in other sports, the use of technology may herald a new era in boxing.

Medal Winners (Indians unless specified)

Light-flyweight (49 kg): 1. Amandeep, 2. Peter Mungai (Kenya), 3. Redzuan (Malaysia) and Bathusi Mogajane (Botswana).

Flyweight (52 kg): 1. Suranjoy Singh, 2. Oliver Lavigi (Mauritius), 3. Andrew Selby (Wales) and P. D. Suresh (Sri Lanka).

Bantamweight (56 kg): 1. Ian Weaver (England), 2. M. D. K. Wanniarachchi (Sri Lanka), 3. Bruno Julie (Mauritius) and Tirafalo Seoko (Botswana).

Lightweight (60 kg): 1. Jai Bhagwan, 2. Valention Knowles (Bahamas), 3. Danny Phillips (England) and Joseph Njogu (Kenya).

Light-welterweight (64 kg): 1. Scott Cardle (England), 2. Chris Jenkins (Wales), 3. Richarno Colin (Mauritius) and Hashim Petro (Tanzania).

Welterweight (69 kg): 1. Fred Evans (Wales), 2. Moabi Mothiba (Botswana), 3. Callum Smith (England) and Nivesh Gyadin (Mauritius).

Middleweight (75 kg): 1. Vijender Singh, 2. Frank Buglioni (England), 3. Selemani Kidunda (Tanzania) and Nathan McEwen (NZ).

Light-heavyweight (81 kg): 1. Dinesh Kumar, 2. Callum Johnson (Scotland), 3. Leonard Machichi (Tanzania) and Rodney Prosper (Mauritius).

Heavyweight (91 kg): 1. Simon Vallily (England), 2. Elly Ajowi (Kenya), 3. David Aloua Rogers (NZ) and Stephen Simmons (Scotland).

Super-heavyweight (+91 kg): 1. Paramjeet Samota, 2. Joseph Parker (NZ), 3. Ross Henderson (Scotland) and Frazer Clarke (England).

The changing season

The season seems to be changing in Indian boxing. With the signing of a promoter of Percept's capability, it was good tidings for the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF). In no time IBF got a sponsor for the Commonwealth Championship. And then, a team and kit sponsor in steelmaker Monnet came as another boost. The successful boxers at the Commonwealth Championship reaped decent rewards as well. Each of them bagged a motorcycle from Hero Honda apart from Rs 25,000 in cash from Percept and a suit length from Siyaram.

Five boxers, Vijender Singh, Suranjoy Singh, Dinesh Kumar, Jai Bhagwan and Balwinder Beniwal, were signed up under Percept's talent nurture programme.

Now the IBF hopes to find a sponsor to support its annual international meet. “We have got a nice venue. If we conduct a championship every year, our boxers will get good exposure. The confidence of fighting before the home crowd will help them prepare for bigger events,” the IBF Secretary-General, Col. P. K. Muralidharan Raja, said.