New Delhi, Nov 4 (IANS) Asserting that India has the potential to emerge as a boxing powerhouse, WBO member Jack Daniel Leigh said that the soon to be launched Mega Boxing professional tournament could become just the right platform to help the sport grow in the country.
Scheduled to be launched in Gurugram on November 30, Mega Boxing will have professional fighters from India and several other countries.
Leigh, who has been a member of the World Boxing Organization (WBO) since 1996, feels that the tournament will provide the right platform to Indian boxers who aspire to enter the world of professional boxing.
"In India, everyone wants to do a league. However, boxing is an individual sport. Therefore, it was essential to develop a structure which has individual fighters pitted against each other and not teams, much like how WWE, UFC and ONE Championship work. Other sports, which primarily have individuals competing against each other, such as Formula 1, Moto GP and Golf, also helped us define the dynamics of Mega Boxing," Leigh told IANS.
"This would essentially mean regular promotions for the Indian talent and possibility to integrate with the international professional boxing network. The overall concept is inspired from the Sylvester Stallone hosted reality show, The Contender, which in the past, has given some middleweight world champions, through the selection of raw talent, subsequent coaching and proper platform," he added.
"Hopefully, by the end of the year, we shall discover an Indian fighter who can challenge for a title fight in Vegas."
Pointing out that India has all the conditions required to produce world class boxers, Leigh said that the country needs to carry its success in amateur boxing to the professional level.
"Two key ingredients for the growth of professional boxing are present in India, population and poverty (only a poor guy would want to get punched in the face for money and fame). Further, India is significantly underdeveloped in the sport. Moreover, for India now, the medals need to be converted into belts.
"India has the talent. Not many people might be aware, but an Indian professional boxer Pradip Singh Sihag, who was also a participant in The Contender Australia, was a middleweight champion in Asia and held multiple titles. And Vijender Singh now also holds a couple of WBO Super-Middleweight Asian titles. One only needs to look at India's success in amateur boxing at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and other world competitions. However, graduating from the amateur circuit to the professional one would need more concerted efforts as it requires training in certain skill sets, preparation, right guidance and platform," he said.
"A platform such as Mega Boxing would give talented boxers a chance to perform, get more top quality fights for building up their career and go on to get fights at international levels. In addition, there are more than 130 academies in India and more than 13,000 boxers from the age of 8 to 18+. That is a huge talent pool, which if directed properly, can make India a top nation in professional boxing in the world," he added.
However, Leigh felt the system in India needs to improve in order to help Indian boxing reach its full potential.
"Professional boxing is scattered in India and India lost a few years in the sport with the amateur federation shut for almost 4 years till end-2016. Hence, the prime crop of those times lost out on many opportunities. Mega Boxing would help the future crop in not losing out as such," he asserted.
"Entertainment tax on professional sporting events needs to be reconsidered in order to promote the sport, specially when it comes to a sport such as boxing, which appeals to both the urban and rural markets. Educating boxers about the fact that if they perform in professional boxing events, their selection can't be hampered in international amateur competitions due to AIBA ruling in favour of such participation."
Leigh, who is also the chairman of the WBO's Australian chapter, was excited with the commercial possibilities afforded by a huge market like India to emerging professional tournaments like Mega Boxing.
"The Indian sports market is a billion dollar industry however professional boxing doesn't find much of a place in that. Hence, the opportunity to develop a platform for the sport in a scattered and underdeveloped market is very exciting. India doesn't have any quality platforms in professional boxing, despite the raw talent available in the country," he said.
"Further, sport media consumption is exploding in India. So, quality fights shall provide deeper engagement for the fans, both on ground and in digital media. Hence, possibilities are immense when things are done in the right manner for this sport."
(Ajeyo Basu can be contacted at email@example.com)