India’s top male boxers will make their first trans-Atlantic trip for training and will be based at sprint icon Michael Johnson’s acclaimed high performance centre next month, putting their preparations for Commonwealth Games in top gear. “We are leaving for the USA for a physical training camp at the Michael Johnson Academy in Texas next month. Boxers who are part of the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme will be travelling for this,” Indian boxing’s High Performance Director and men’s coach Santiago Nieva told PTI, detailing his plans for the April 4 to 15 CWG in Gold Coast next year.
Seven of the 11 boxers, who are currently listed as TOP beneficiaries, will be travelling for the training stint from December 7 to 17 at the state-of-the-art centre, founded by four-time Olympic gold-medallist and nine-time world champion Johnson in 2007. This will be the first training trip to the USA for Indian boxers, who have traditionally altered between Europe and Cuba for preparatory camps.
The squad picked for the trip comprises those who participated at this year’s World Championships in Hamburg, Germany. So, Hamburg bronze-medallist Gaurav Bidhuri (56kg), three-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa (60kg), former CWG gold-medallist Manoj Kumar (69kg), Amit Panghal (49kg), Kavinder Bisht (52kg), and Sumit Sangwan (91kg) have been selected for the “exciting opportunity”.
“At the Michael Johnson Performance Centre, we will be assessing their physical parameters besides doing strength training,” Nieva said. The center is much sought after among top athletes and specialises in performance training, physical therapy, bio-mechanical assessments and nutrition consultation. It currently has a tie-up with English Premier League side Arsenal for developing youngsters of the club.
This apart, Nieva also detailed his plan for the rest of the campers, revealing that all of this year’s national champions will be heading to Kazakhstan for a training-cum-competition trip from December 20.
“Right now we have 60 boxers in the national camp. This number will be pruned to 40 eventually. In January, there will be the Indian Open Invitational in Delhi.
“That will be followed by the selection trials for the Commonwealth Games. So that’s how we plan to build up for the Commonwealth Games in April,” he explained.
Nieva, since his appointment as High Performance Director in September, has spent his time travelling extensively to assess the various national camps besides attending the entirety of this year’s senior men’s nationals.
“I was there at the senior men’s national championships on all the days and I was very impressed with what I saw. There was a huge turnout of boxers, which I haven’t seen at too many other places.
“My assessment is that we are very good in the lighter weight categories, the quality is very good. But, in the higher weight categories, we have some work to do,” said the Argentina-born three-star coach.
“I was also there at the senior women’s national camp in Delhi. I also travelled to Bhopal for the youth women’s camp. This has given me better perspective of what’s to be done. I must say it has been a very interesting two months for me.”
Nieva said he is trying to ensure that there is good bench strength to choose from. “I am continuing to work on my plan for having a huge pool of boxers to choose from and for that we are spreading out the international competitions to a larger pool of boxers,” he said.