Landing a new punch

M. C. RAMAN

Services won the team title, but, like its archrivals Railways, appeared to lose total grip on the Nationals.-R. RAGU

INDIAN boxing has been riding high after an excellent show by the country's pugilists in the Commonwealth Championship. As a result, the recently held 52nd National Senior Men's Championship, hosted by the Tamil Nadu State Amateur Boxing Association (TNSBA) at Kalpakkam with the help of the Nuclear Employees Sports & Cultural Organisation (NESCO), carried too much of expectations. The organisers had an overwhelming response from participants all over the country, and the event turned out to be a trendsetter.

There were some questions that came to one's mind after the competition. Normally, national boxing has always been the happy hunting ground of the two archrivals, Services and Railways. In the days of the British Raj, it was the Army that produced the best boxers. The tradition continued even after Independence and the Services was on top till the 70s, when Railways slowly came into the picture to challenge the dominance of Services. It became a tough rivalry in the 1980s and since then the two sides have ruled the competition. But the trend is changing now if this year's National Championship is any indication. Only time can tell whether it is going to be a temporary change or a permanent one. However, what is certain is that Indian boxing is definitely moving to a different zone.

Railways could not win the team title but the team's pugilist Bijender Singh (right, in action against Bipin Pyngrope of Services in the semifinal) won the bantamweight title.-R. RAGU

In an action-filled day of the tournament, Railways lost three of its boxers. And on the penultimate day both Services and Railways had only six finalists and they met only in three finals. Of course, Railways did not have three of its best men who won the Commonwealth medals and Services missed one.

State pugilists made a big impact in the Nationals by figuring in five finals. Haryana, Chandigarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Goa, Delhi, Gujarat, Assam Rifles and Police had their men in the fight for gold. "It was a very big surprise that so many State boxers moved into the finals. It is good for the sport. Now they are fighting with more confidence and guts against the Services and Railways boxers. It is difficult to say at this point whether the standard of Services and Railways has come down or the State boxers have improved. But the fact is that this is the beginning of a new chapter in Indian boxing," said a State coach.

The emergence of State boxers was a notable feature of the National. Siddharth of Maharashtra (left) surprised Railways' (defending champion) Manikandan, who fell to the ground, triggering the downfall of his team.-R. RAGU

The discarded Services and Railways fighters represented their States in the National. This improved the competition. But it must also be seen that the local talent should not suffer because of their presence. The IABF must sort out these problems so that the National has the best boxers of the country and therefore sponsorship. The IABF is also taking steps to introduce a ranking system. If that happens it will be better to get the top boxers directly for the major event and the organisers will also be keen about this.

Even without the ranking system, the recent National Championship brought some talented boxers into focus. Paramjeet Singh of Chandigarh gave an exciting start to the championship by eliminating Jonathan of Services in the first round. He was quick and sharp with his one-two punches. In the light flyweight final against Zawhly of Karnataka, Paramjeet Singh scored 41 points, showing his enterprise. Similarly Suranjay Singh of Services, who won the Best Boxer award, surprised Mohamed Ali Qamar, a former Commonwealth medallist, with tremendous aggression and power. Much was expected of Qamar, but he lost the fly final.

However, Bijender Singh of Railways proved to be of different class. His footwork, style and his hit and run tactics make him look different in bantamweight. He can be groomed into a world-class pugilist. P. Narjit Singh of Services is agile and always goes for the target. But his punches lack power because of which he had some problems against Siddharth of Maharashtra in the featherweight final. But the Army man won.

Paramjeet Singh of Chandigarh proudly displays his medal after winning the light flyweight category.-R. RAGU

Vikas Malik of Gujarat in lightweight and D. Bhagyarajan of Services in light welterweight are gutsy and tactful. These boxers really stood out in the finals, though V. Johnson of Services won his super heavyweight final to give Services its fifth gold. Services edged out the defending champion, Railways, which won four gold and two silver medals.

It is a pity that India does not have boxers like Devarajan, who won the World Cup bronze 10 years ago, or Zoram Thanga, a bronze medallist in the World Cup in Mumbai in 1990. Even a boxer of the calibre of Dharmender Singh Yadav, who became a professional, was missing. But Jitender, who did not take part in the National, and Dengo have provided some consolation. However, the good show by Indian boxers in the last Commonwealth competition has raised the hopes again. This is one sport in which India is regularly getting medals in international competitions. The talent is definitely there. All what the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation has to do is to expand the sport further.

The Results

Finals: Light Flyweight: Paramjeet Singh (Chandigarh) beat Rhokhow Zawhly (Karnataka) 41-32;

Flyweight: Suranjay Singh (Services) beat Md. Ali Qamar (Rlys) 30-28;

Bantamweight: Thapa (Assam Rifles) lost to Bijender Singh (Rlys) 11-27;

Featherweight: Siddharth (Maharashtra) lost to P. Narjit Singh (Services) 23-26;

Lightweight: Vikas Malik (Gujarat) beat Deepak Kumar (Delhi) RSC;

Light Welterweight: S. B. Tamang (Assam Rifles) beat D. Bhagyarajan (Services) 10-18;

Welterweight: Virender (Haryana) concedes walk-over to Vijender (Rlys);

Middleweight: Amarjit Singh (Goa) lost to Parwinder Singh (Rlys) 7-21;

Light Heavyweight: Durjay Shastri (Rlys) lost to Mahendra Thapa (Services) 21-22;

Heavyweight: Hardeep Nagra (Services) lost to Harpreet Singh (Rlys) 12-22;

Super Heavyweight: Balkar Singh (AI Police) lost to V. Johnson (Services) RSC