Stop,” shouted a voice outside the ring, with only a few seconds left for the conclusion of the bout between Pankaj Saini and Devendro Singh at the boxing hall at NIS, Patiala. It’s only the referee who regulates the action during a boxing match. But in response to the shout, the man in the ring separated the boxers whose heads had just clashed. Kishan Narsi AIBA’s representative in India and a senior international judge who was overseeing the trials had called for the break. He now had the ringside doctor to examine Devendro’s right eyeline. Instinctively Devendro brushed the spot with his glove and then checked it for blood.
It must have been a nasty case of déjà vu for the 22-year-old looking to make his first Commonwealth Games. About 10 months back, in the very same hall Devendro had been boxing against the very same opponent, in the trials for the World Championships.
Devendro, ranked second in the world then, was seen as one of India’s best prospect at the World Event — where boxers would be participating without headguards for the first time. As such no headguards were used during Devendro’s bout – the first of last years’ trials as well.
Thirteen seconds into the bout, as the boxers charged forward, an accidental headbutt split open a nasty gash on Devendro’s left eyebrow. The bout was halted and as per the rules, Devendro forfeited the match and a place in the world championships.
And while there were hopes that he may still be considered for selections, Devendro ultimately didn’t make the cut. “All the other boxers — Nanao bhai (Nanao Singh, who ultimately went to the WCs in the 49kg category) and Santosh — all came up to me and said that I was very unlucky that I had missed the world championships. At that time I felt others were more disappointed than me that I missed the world championships. For me after the initial disappointment of all my effort being lost, I forgot about not going to the championships,”says Devendro.
With a barnstorming, hyper aggressive approach that had taken him to the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics, and won him a silver at the 2013 Asian Championships, Devendro Singh may have been India’s most exciting fighter but he was clearly susceptible to taking damage especially in the absence of a headgear. “There is nothing wrong in being an aggressive boxer, but before, Devendro would sometimes take more risks than he had to,” says assistant coach C Kuttappa. And while Devendro says he wasn’t disappointed on missing the World Championships, Kuttappa believes that missing out, has made him an improved boxer.
“Devendro is still aggressive. He is still aggressive but he takes his chances well,” says Kutappa.
And while Devendro may have missed the World Championships, he continued…