The recent recognition of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) by the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) appears to have changed fortunes of the sport in India for the better, one of the effects of which is a more confident-looking contingent for the Commonwealth Games 2018.
Leading boxers L Sarita Devi (60 kg) and Vikas Krishan (75 kg), who are among the leading medal prospects from the Indian contingent alongside star pugilist MC Mary Kom, drew a confident picture when it came to their preparation for the big event.
“Our preparation’s going quite well. We have a good preparation because we are receiving support in every form. They (BFI) hired a foreign coach, trainer for us. From our side, we are giving our 100 percent in our preparation for the Commonwealth Games. Last time I got a silver, and this time I have to win gold,” said Sarita in an interaction with Firstpost on the sidelines of an event organised by BFI in New Delhi on Saturday to give the CWG boxing contingent a send-off for Gold Coast.
Krishan, who is set to make his debut at the Games after having missed out on the previous edition due to injury, said that the boxers will solely be at fault if they underperform in the event that begins on 7 April.
“We have been given all the facilities, and if we don’t win a medal now, then I don’t know when. We usually blame others for our shortcomings, but this time if we don’t win, then the fault will be ours,” said Krishan, who singled out Manish Kaushik (60 kg) and Amit Panghal (49 kg) as key medal prospects for the upcoming Games.
Ever since BFI’s recognition as a national body by the IOA, which took place after a lot of indecision and led to the termination of the affiliate body Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF), Indian boxers have experienced a surge in terms of the number of events that they are participating in and the exposure that comes along with it.
“Every boxer’s getting the opportunity to travel abroad, and getting exposure. Plus the BFI’s also organizing tournaments and competitions within India.
“Earlier there used to be just one or two competitions in a year, and only the top-ranked would go and compete. Now, every month we get a tournament to compete in, and No 1, 2 and 3 get equal exposure, and because of that a lot of other boxers are also gaining a lot of confidence and becoming tougher,” said Sarita.
The Manipuri boxer added that she won a silver in Glasgow 2014 despite nursing a wrist injury, and her complete fitness this time around should help her change the colour of her medal.
“Back then we didn’t have as much support due to the ban on our federation (BFI). And I had also suffered a wrist injury around that time. I had no idea about the injury until I reached Glasgow for the Games… and I made my way to the final by having three painkillers a day.
“However, this time I don’t have any injury, and I’m fit both physically as well as mentally, and we’re also receiving support from all corners, so we will do well,” said Sarita, who expects the Australian boxers to dominate given the support from the home crowd.
For 26-year-old Krishan, winning gold as well as being adjudged the best boxer in the recently-concluded Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament turned out to be a major confidence booster. Krishan defeated USA’s Troy Isley in the 75 kg finals to clinch gold at the event in Sofia.
“This is the first time that I went to a local tournament and won gold. I usually lose the first or the second bout of a local tournament, and as such have never taken such events too seriously.
“This time around, the opponents were also good; China had a No 1, USA had a No 1 and a gold medallist, due to which I took it seriously on this occasion and performed well, and now feel a lot more confident,” said the pugilist who hails from Haryana’s Bhiwani district.
More often than not, young athletes are overwhelmed by the pressure of debuting in an event as big as the Commonwealth Games. That, however, is not the case of a clear-headed Krishan.
“I have been part of the Indian boxing team for the last 15 years. If I still go through mental blocks, then how long will I last in this field?,” said Krishan.
The boxers will be landing in Australia well before other members of the Indian contingent, and will be given a week to acclimatise themselves in the host country at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra.
“There has often been this issue that you land in a different time zone, and suddenly you’re expected to start boxing the next day. That just works very poorly for our boxers, and we put them at a great disadvantage. This time there will be a full acclimatisation programme for one week,” said BFI president Ajay Singh at the event.
Singh, who was elected as the BFI chief in September 2016, went on to describe India as a “world power in boxing”.
“India is a recognized world power in boxing in a very short period of time, and we need to put our best foot forward to get as many medals as we can, and have our national anthem play again and again,” added Singh.