After decades spent looking on through the ropes from the ringside, Indian boxing announced itself to the Olympics with a stinging 1-2 combination. Vijender Singh opened country s account with a bronze in Beijing, Mary Kom followed suit with one at London. Then came a body blow.
The national body was suspended, and Indian boxing keeled over. During an Olympic cycle when the breakout performances should ve bred more contenders, the sport floundered. After the nadir of a disastrous campaign in Rio, the formation of the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) in 2016 has brought about a revival, the latest chapter of which is Amit Panghal s historic World Championship silver, the first for an Indian in the men s category.
The revival, however, is about more than just the medals. The health of Indian boxing can be gauged by the talent pool, especially in the men s section. Another indicator is the large net being cast. The Bhiwani Boxing Club served as a conveyor belt for long, but the sport has moved beyond Haryana. A
long with the Northeastern states, it remains the cradle, but pockets are opening up in Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. The Services team deserves credit as well for shaping six of the eight boxers who competed at the Worlds in Russia. State-of-the-art training facilities such as the Army Sports Institute in Pune and competent coaches are further bringing India on par with several powerhouses.
But the Worlds is not enough. Glory remains reserved for Olympic medallists, and the ultimate test will be in Tokyo next year. India s Olympic plans have again been dented, the culprit this time being the suspended world body, and the postponed qualifiers. Not all is well in the federation too, issues owing to India s sporting culture. The image-conscious stars are still protected, and occasional lack of transparency is frustrating. Next month s World Championships could also be the reality check for women. One thing though is for certain: This is not a false dawn.