TOUGHER days are on the horizon for Indian boxing. The situation may be nothing new, but after a slipshod performance in the Busan Asian Games, Indian pugilists have done very little to recover from that spectre.


TOUGHER days are on the horizon for Indian boxing. The situation may be nothing new, but after a slipshod performance in the Busan Asian Games, Indian pugilists have done very little to recover from that spectre.

The 49th National championship in Delhi was the best fora to gauge the preparedness of boxers, but it just highlighted the dimness of the situation.

The 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Mohammed Ali Qamar, and the bronze medal winner, Jitender Kumar, were the only two who showed some signs of readiness. Besides these two Railway pugilists, Services' Som Bahadur Pun and V. Johnson dominated their weight categories. That may, however, be subjective given that Indian boxers usually manipulate body weight during the domestic tournaments.

Jitender featured in the heavyweight category, but since the boxer has little chance in this class at the international level, he would now be busy reducing his weight to fit two rungs down in the middleweight section.

This formula, has however, proved counter-productive as Jitender failed to earn a medal in the middleweight class at Busan. He barely managed a bronze in the Commonwealth Games.

In that sense, Mohammed Ali Qamar emerges as India's best bet. But from the way he boxed in the light-flyweight final, a close 23-20 decision against Khimanand Belwal, Qamar needs to be careful about over-exerting in the initial rounds.

Having said that, the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) is still sleeping over the preparations for the coming season. The Busan fiasco saw Bulgarian coach Peter Stoychev Stoyanov being sacked and none named to replace him.

National coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu was at hand `observing' the boxers perform at the Nationals, but then if the IABF is planning for the World championship and Olympic Games then something concrete in this regard should already have been in place. The 2003-04 season is immensely important as it has a packed international schedule.

Though the World championships (July 4-13, Bangkok) is an important competition, the IABF should concentrate on the three Olympic qualification tournaments coming up early next year. And, considering the current sporting hostility between India and Pakistan, India will be left with just two Olympic qualifying tournaments.

Of the three events, dates of only one event, President's Cup in Manila (January 11-18) have been confirmed. The second championship is scheduled to be held in Beijing while the third in Karachi, one of them being the Asian championship.

Against this backdrop, the IABF will do well if it excludes maverick Dingko Singh from its scheme of things.

The absence of Dingko Singh, who is troubled by a recurring wrist injury for the last three years, was one glaring example.

In fact, Dingko has put himself in a kind of situation that it will take some counselling before he is considered for any plan. His moodiness and the frequent absence from coaching camps have been taken note of.

Dingko has repeatedly said that he prefers to practise at the Army Sports Institute in Pune where the Services has employed Cuban Raul Despaigne Issac to coach its boxers. Though his success rate is a debatable issue, there is no second opinion about the need for a coach to converse in English. Issac cannot even speak broken English, and there are efforts to install him as a coach.

The 49th edition of the Nationals, organised by the Uttar Pradesh Boxing Association, was held in Delhi for two reasons. The capital city naturally has better infrastructure, but it was the eleventh hour backing out of the original host, Tamil Nadu, which forced the IABF to entrust its U.P. unit with the task of holding the event in the 2002-03 financial year.

If Jitender and Qamar were the best, there were a few others who also need to get a look in, among the Indian probables for the international events.

The team championship was won by Services with six gold and two silver medals garnering 63 points. Railways, with five golds and a silver medal, finished second aggregating 54 points while Haryana (21) was placed third.

Others who performed well were the Central Industrial Security Force's (CISF) Dalbir Singh (bantamweight), Services' Kanta Singh (light-middleweight), Railways' Akhil Kumar (flyweight) and V. Harikrishnan (light-welterweight) and Services' Ramanand (lightweight).

The results:

Light flyweight: Final: Mohammed Ali Qamar (Rly) bt Khimanand Belwal (Ser) 23-20; Semifinals: Belwal bt Bhubaneshwar (Cth) 38-17; Qamar bt Arun Singh (Pol) RSC III.

Flyweight: Final: Akhil Kumar (Rly) bt S. Suresh Singh (CISF) 25-24; Semifinals: Suresh Singh bt Robin Dev (Steel Plants) 32-18; Akhil Kumar bt D. Kannan (Ser) 25-14.

Bantamweight: Final: Dalbir Singh (CISF) bt Y. Herojit Singh (Man) 50-36; Semifinals: Herojit Singh bt Sujit Biswa (Assam Rifles) 34-15; Dalbir Singh bt Dharambeer Singh (Rly) 31-30.

Featherweight: Final: Som Bahadur Pun (Ser) bt D. Manikandan (AP) 26-7; Semifinals: Pun bt Muztaba Kamal (Rly) 33-14; Manikandan w.o Bishal Chhetri (Meg).

Lightweight: Final: Ramanand (Ser) bt Pawan Kumar (Har) RSC III; Semifinals: Pawan Kumar bt Anil Kumar (Utn) 39-16; Ramanand bt Devender (Del) RSC II.

Light welterweight: Final: V. Harikrishnan (Rly) bt T. B. Thapa (Meg) 34-22; Semifinals: Thapa bt L. Bikramjeet Singh (Man) 60-34; Harikrishnan bt C. Kuttappa (Ser) 14-9.

Welterweight: Final: A. Santosh Kumar (Ser) bt Anil Kumar (CISF) RSC II; Semifinals: Anil Kumar bt Subasaran (TN) Retd. III; Santosh Kumar bt Sanjay Kumar (Har) 28-19.

Light middleweight: Final: Kanta Singh (Ser) bt Rajesh Kumar (CISF) 30-22; Semifinals: Rajesh Kumar bt Vijay Chauhan (Chd) RSC III; Kanta Singh bt V. Shivraj (AP) Retd. II.

Middleweight: Final: Satish Kumar (Ser) bt Joginder Dagar (Pol) RSC II; Semifinals: Dagar bt K. Lawrence (Steel Plants) 29-28; Satish Kumar w.o Man Kumar Rai (Skm).

Light heavyweight: Final: Harpreet Singh (Rly) bt D. B. Thapa (MP) RSC II; Semifinals: Harpreet Singh bt Ravi Gill (AP) RSC III; Thapa bt Manoj Kumar (Har) RSC I.

Heavyweight: Final: Jitender Kumar (Rly) bt Gurbinder Singh (Ser) Retd. I; Semifinals: Jitender Kumar bt Balbir Singh (Pun) Retd. I; Gurbinder Singh bt Punit Yadav (Har) RSC I.

Super heavyweight: Final: V. Johnson (Ser) bt Shakti Singh (Rly) RSC III; Semifinals: Shakti Singh bt Anil Kumar (MP) RSC II; Johnson bt Parmender (Har) 22-17.

Team championship: 1. Services 63 points; 2. Railways 54; 3. Haryana 21.

Best boxer: Mohammed Ali Qamar. Best loser: Gurmel Singh.