Shoddy affair

Aruna Mishra made a grand return to the ring.-RITU RAJ KONWAR

Regional bias, mistrust among boxers and coaches and a myopic IBF looking the other way instead of addressing these issues could prove to be the undoing of Indian boxing. S. Sabanayakan reports on another wasted National meet.

Having ended its long wait to enter the Olympic Games, women’s boxing in India should have begun its preparation for the 2012 London Olympics in right earnest as the National championship was held in Jamshedpur.

The 10th edition, held from October 2 to 7 in the Steel City, did not show the Indian Boxing Federation’s intention in good light keeping in mind the women pugilists have the best chance of grabbing an Olympic medal or two in three years time. P lanning and preparation to attain the pinnacle of success at the quadrennial Games could have started with this Nationals instead of going through the motion of completing one more event in the yearly calendar of the IBF.

True, the IBF brought down the weight categories from 13 to 11 but had little control over the pugilists, especially the leading lights while choosing the weight classes to suit their needs for the Olympics. The mightiest of all, four-time World champion, M.C. Mary Kom, continued to fight in her pet 46 kg class instead of 48 to 51 kg category which is the lightest section at the Games. Neither the All-India Police Board nor the IBF had taken any step to initiate the boxer into the weight category that would suit the need of the hour.

Similar was the case with other potential medal winners. They were all competing to win medals for the cause of their States or Boards rather than thinking of winning medals for India in London. The IBF and others may argue that there’s enough time to make those adjustments, but the fact remains that countries like China, Russia and other boxing powerhouses have already begun preparations and in a year’s time would begin to count the medals when India would be busy classifying the boxers.

The bane of Indian sport is its lack of urgency and faulty, in some cases late, planning that is responsible for its failure to win medals in international events. Add to this regional bias, mistrust among boxers and coaches and a myopic IBF looking the other way instead of addressing these issues could prove to be the undoing of Indian boxing.

The emergence of Haryana as a boxing superpower within the country and the decline of Northeast, especially Manipur, has added a new dimension to the problems plaguing the sport. The outburst of Mary Kom following her quarterfinal loss to Haryana’s Pinky Jangra in the 46 kg class was a case in point.

The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna winner accusing the National coach of promoting boxers from Haryana and her allegations that some officials from that state were trying to influence the outcome of the results of her bout added spice to the raging controversy.

The loss of Laishram Sarita Devi in the 54 kg class to ultimate winner Sunita Yadav of Railways (originally from Haryana) in the preliminaries was the first incident that snowballed into a major debate the next day when Mary made a massive scene in front of the judges.

Mary even accused many from Haryana and other states, who were automatic choices for the Indian team, of giving a skip to the National meet in connivance with the powers that be. The loss to 20-year-old Pinky was remain Mary’s first in the National championship in 10 years. She had problems with the ruling of the judges after the two pugilists were tied 9-9 in actual fight and 15-15 on individual scoring of judges. When the white flag went up, the ring official called upon the five judges to press the button one more time by judging the better of the two combatants on different aspects of boxing. The 4-1 verdict in favour of Pinky was enough to force Mary to question the decision.

Mary was not the lone big name to bite the dust. Sarita, also of Police and Kalpana Choudhury of Railways, another international, too went out early; all failing to prepare physically and mentally for the championship.

It was a blessing in disguise indeed as almost all the lower weight classes produced new champions. Krishna Thapa felled Pinky in the title round with judicious mix of tight defence and counter attacks.

One victory against Mary did make Pinky feel like a new kid inside the ring. But her open, all-out attack left a lot of gaps which Krishna utilised fully in winning her maiden title and the best boxer award. Pinky was adjudged the best loser on the strength of her famous victory over Mary Kom.

Vallal Duati of Tripura, a 19-year-old from Mizoram, practising in Hisar under Anoop Kumar, made up for her last year’s loss in the final by clinching her maiden 48 kg title. Haryana’s Mamta fought hard making it 4-4 in the actual bout but lost on individual scoring by judges at 9-8. Meena Kumari of Police, four-time champion and a bronze medallist at the Antalya Worlds in 2002, returned to the ring after a two-year hiatus, to stop Sagar Tokas of Delhi, her junior by almost 10 years, 5-3 to win her fifth title in the 51 kg. Despite the loss, the teenager showed a lot of promise and could be an Olympic medal contender in three years time.

M.C. Mary Kom had to bite the dust.-SANDEEP SAXENA

The 22-year-old Sunita Yadav of Railways won her maiden National title in the 54 kg. Sunita, who beat Sarita in an earlier round, stopped the hard-punching Pwizao Basumatary of Assam easily. Sunita’s court craft and superior footwork were pleasing to watch and this Bhiwani boxer promises to be medal winner for India.

Two more first-time National champions, Priyanka Chaudhary of Uttarakhand in 57 kg and Meena Rani of Uttar Pradesh in 60 kg, stood out with their technique and temperament.

Wiry Priyanka took on Dorothy Lal Chhanhini of Mizoram and subdued her while the unheralded U.P. boxer, Meena, put out Seema Devi of Railways.

The contest in the heavier weight class was more of a slugging match rather than technical boxing. Aruna Mishra of Police won her sixth title, this one after returning to the ring after child birth and being out of action for two years.

Young Kavita fought well in the 64 kg bout but Aruna’s experience and crowd support enabled her to triumph.

Railways was the best team logging 30 points, two more than Police.

After placing five boxers in the final, Railways lost three finals and won two ending the meet with two gold and three silver medals. Had not M.C. Mary Kom and L. Sarita Devi exited early the script would have been different and the Police team would have lifted the team title.

THE RESULTS (all finals)

46 kg: Krishna Thapa (MP) bt Pinky Jangra (Har) 20-5.

48 kg: Vanlal Duati (Tri) bt Mamta (Har) 9-8. 51 kg: Meena Kumari (Pol) bt Sagar Tokas (Del) 5-3. 54 kg: Pwizao Basumatary (Asm) lost to Sunita Yadav (Rly) 1-10.

57 kg: Dorothy Lal Chhanhini (Miz) lost to Priyanka Chaudhary (Utr) 11-12. 60 kg: Seema Devi (Rly) lost to Meena Rani (UP) 7-11. 64 kg: Kavita (Del) lost to Aruna Mishra (Pol) 1-4. 69 kg: Ashlata Thomas (Ker) lost to Renu (Del) 1-6.

75 kg: Jenny R.L. (Pol) bt Aswathy Mol (Rly) 3-0.

81 kg: Gurpreet Kaur (Pun) lost to Jyotsna (Rly) 2-13.

+81 kg: N. Swapnapriya (Rly) lost to Kavita (Har) 3-10.