The medal winners of the 2019 India Open are yet to get their prize-money. (File Photo)
While dues to the pugilists, totalling several lakh, from last year's edition remain outstanding, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) on Friday scrapped this year's India Open International Tournament. The BFI, it is learnt, was forced into the decision owing to financial constraints. However, the federation's spokesperson claimed the move was precipitated with the boxers likely to be out of the country for a training camp during the period when the event was originally planned.
The tournament was scheduled for March-April and, according to sources, was to double up as selection trials for the World Olympic qualifying tournament to be held in May. However, separate trials are now likely to be organised for the categories in which India does not win a quota at the continental qualifiers next month.
Curiously, the 2020 edition of the India Open has been called off at a time when a number of boxers have complained to the federation – in writing and orally as well – regarding the unpaid prize money from the 2019 edition, which was held in Guwahati in May. The BFI, sources said, is yet to disburse total cash prize of approximately Rs 34 lakh to the gold and silver medal-winning Indian boxers.
The gold medallists were entitled to get $2,500 (Rs 1,77,000 approximately) while the runners-up were assured of $1,000 (roughly Rs 70,900). Indian men and women boxers returned with a rich haul from the championship, winning 12 gold medals, 18 silver and 27 bronze – although the losing semifinalists were not slated to receive any cash prize.
The six foreigners who medalled (all gold) were rewarded immediately after the tournament concluded. The Indian boxers, however, are yet to receive a dime. “The priority was to pay the foreign boxers first because the Indian players are within the system so their dues would eventually be cleared,” the BFI spokesperson said.
Waiting for seven months
After nearly seven months of waiting, though, a boxer shot off a letter to the federation last week, seeking clarity on the issue. It was followed up by several other pugilists approaching BFI officials, demanding that their prize money be paid. “Many of us have been waiting patiently since May and have followed up with the federation several times. However, they have not given us a concrete reply. We are yet to receive the prize money for winning a medal seven months ago. I do not know what is the reason for this delay,” said a boxer who won a gold medal at the tournament.
According to the BFI, the delay has been because they did not receive the sponsorship money from the Assam government. “We have recently received the sponsorship money from the Government of Assam so the Indian boxers will shortly be given their prize money,” the spokesperson added.
Not just the boxers, it is learnt that a few members of the coaching staff, referee-judges, and a couple of state units who hosted domestic championships, too, have not been paid their dues. Some pugilists even claimed the federation owes them money from previous international tournaments as well. The prize money for the 2018 India Open, too, was delayed by more than a month.