Punches of delight in the ring

Punches of delight in the ring

Punches of delight in the ring

Suranjoy Singh

Whether it was winning India’s maiden World Championship medal in Milan or becoming the world’s number one middle weight boxer, the 24-year-old Olympic bronze medallist remained the brightest star on the Indian boxing horizon for the second year in a row.

In between punching his way into history books, Vijender, along with his female counterpart MC Mary Kom, also walked away with the country’s highest sporting honour -- the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, which was also a first for Indian boxing.

But while Vijender settled for bronze in every tournament he competed in, a 22-year-old from a small town in Manipur, Suranjoy Singh, became Indian boxing’s golden boy this year. The shy flyweight boxer, who wanted to be a footballer at the start of his career before being persuaded to don the gloves by his elder brother, clinched three gold medals at prestigious international events. Suranjoy’s rise started with the European Grand Prix in May in Czech Republic, where he claimed the gold medal while Vijender, competing in his first tournament after the Olympics, had to be content with a bronze.

The Asian Championships, a tournament in which India had not won a gold for the past 15 years, was next up on the calendar in the Chinese city of Zhuhai in June. Suranjoy stole the thunder from Vijender there too and notched up the country’s lone gold. Vijender once again settled for a bronze.

The Olympian then struck bronze again, this time of much greater value, at the World Championships in Milan — India’s maiden medal at the World’s. En route to his semifinal appearance, the strapping six-footer trounced a world champion to make it an event to remember for a long time to come. A wrist injury forced Vijender out of the season-ending President’s Cup but Suranjoy ensured that Indian sports lovers had reason to celebrate some more before bidding adieu to 2009 as he clinched the gold medal before being adjudged the best boxer of the tournament.

On the downside, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar, who made quite an impression at the Olympics last year by reaching the quarterfinals beating high-rated opponents, couldn’t build on the success this season.