Boxers ready to pack a punch

Embracing better technique has helped pugilists excel on big stage

Boxers ready to pack a punch

With the Commonwealth Games just 13 days away, boxers are expected to fetch a few gold medals along with the shooters. But that exalted status has not come overnight. The sport had touched its nadir in the 2004 Athens Olympics where they crashed out of the competition far quicker than their punches.

Perhaps, the disappointing show and the subsequent adversities, including a tight financial situation, had a cathartic effect, ushering in a new era in the history of Indian boxing. The Indian Boxing Federation and boxers realised the need to embrace modernity if they wished to be a force in the international arena.

“Since that dismal campaign in the Athens Olympics, we were all focused on bringing in changes and make the boxers familiarise with new methods in competition and training. It worked for us,” IBF Secretary PK Muralidharan Raja said.

In the Melbourne edition of the CWG in 2006, Indian boxers showed the world that they have left the abysmal past behind them. They won a gold (Akhil Kumar), two silver (Vijender Kumar, Harpreet Singh) and two bronze (Jitender Kumar, Varghese Johnson) in the 18th CWG, a small improvement from their performance of 2002 when they won one gold, one silver and one bronze.

It was not that India suddenly discovered an all new squad of boxers. Many of them were around two years ago in Athens too, but it was their mindset that changed. They began to believe in their abilities and the inferiority complex was replaced with a winner’s attitude.

However, the Melbourne show was only an appetiser as the main course followed two years later in the Beijing Olympics. In a competition where the best names of boxing vied for the ultimate recognition, Indian pugilists came to the fore in emphatic fashion.

Vijender won a bronze medal while Akhil and Jitender stormed into the quarterfinals of the quadrennial extravaganza. The unprecedented success in the Olympics fuelled Indian boxers’ dreams and they gradually developed into a much-feared unit in the world competitions.

So, it offered little surprise when the boxers and chief coach, GS Sandhu, talk confidently about bagging a few medals in yellow colour. CWG will have a total of 40 medals, including 10 gold, at stake in the ring.

“Our preparations are good going into the Commonwealth Games. We have a balanced squad. Boxers are high on confidence and they are in the right frame of mind. So there is no reason why we can’t win a few medals in the upcoming competition,” Sandhu said from Patiala where the boxers have been training for a while now.

Akhil concurred with Sandhu’s view point. “We are strong contenders for medals in this edition of CWG. I am training very hard now. I have watched a lot of my videos in an effort to improve my technique and everything is in order and we are eagerly waiting for the Games to start now. But we are not underestimating any team here,” Akhil said.

England could offer India the toughest challenge in the CWG despite the fact that they have selected a largely young team with the London 2012 Olympics in mind. Indians have already tasted the might of British youth when the 19-year old Ian Weaver outpunched
Akhil in the Commonwealth Championships.

Callum South, England champion in the welterweight category, too could be another threat for the Indian boxers. Then there are boxers from Australia, South Africa, Singapore and Mauritius who could give the Indians a run for their money in the CWG. But the Indian boxers are determined that they will not fade away without a fight.

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