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Boxing looks for revival after Rio KO


Four years of administrative bedlam culminated into a medal-less Olympic campaign before Indian boxing took its first steps towards a possible revival of fortunes in a tempestuous 2016 during which the globally money-spinning professional circuit gained foothold in the country.

To count the biggest positive, a new national federation was finally in place after four years of continued tug of war between administrators, who ought to shoulder the maximum blame for the barren run in Rio.

Also not to be missed, was the rapidly-growing circuit of professional boxing in India, the highlight being superstar Vijender Singh winning and successfully defending the WBO Asia Pacific Super Middleweight title in front of delirious fans in Delhi.

But it is still some time before professional boxing catches up on the popularity charts in a country obsessed either with cricket or Olympic medals. And on the Olympic medal front, it was a disappointing year for India’s boxers.

Just three men — Shiva Thapa, Manoj Kumar and Vikas Krishan — could make the cut for the quadrennial sporting spectacle, a sharp decline from the seven men and one woman who represented India in the 2012 London Games.

Unlucky with their draws and severely short of international competitive experience, courtesy India’s suspension which ended only after the Games, the three could not add to the two bronze medals — Vijender Singh (2008) and M C Mary Kom (2012) — that India had secured in the past two Olympics.

The performance in Rio was perhaps the loudest wake-up call that the administrators got given that their wranglings had mostly been covered up by the boxers’ resolute performances in the past four years.

At each of the limited tournaments they competed in before Rio, Indian boxers did the country proud by fetching medals but at the biggest stage of them all, they needed more than sheer grit to deliver results.

The Rio debacle in August proved to be the proverbial last straw and after several delays, elections were finally held in September to put together a new federation — the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) — almost unanimously.

The body has been doing its bit to make up for the lost time and conducted the National Championships for both men and women within a month of assuming office.

Away from the boardroom sparring and going solely by the performance inside the ring, the boxers have a lot to be proud of barring the blip in Rio.

The year started with the Olympic qualifying tournament for the Asian region in China from where Shiva became the first boxer to qualify for the Rio Games with a silver medal- winning performance.

The ones, who came close to a Rio ticket included L Devendro Singh (52kg) and Mary Kom (51kg), both of whom won bronze medals but were unlucky to miss Olympic berths.

In fact, Devendro and Mary Kom can be considered the most unlucky in Indian boxing this year as both failed to make the Olympics despite consistently producing admirable performances.

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