Pumped up by the promise of suitable rewards, a 10-member Indian boxing team, comprising three Asian silver medallists, leaves tonight to compete in the AIBA World Youth Boxing Championships starting November 17 in St Petersburg, Russia.
The 16 to 18-year-olds would be competing in the biggest event of their nascent careers, up against a formidable field of 417 boxers from 75 countries.
“I am expecting at least 4 to 5 medals from this event. These boys are among the best we have and I am sure they will come good,” national coach G Manoharan told PTI at a send-off ceremony organised by the recently-formed Boxing Federation of India (BFI).
The team comprises, among others, three boys who have won silver medals at the Asian Youth Championships. They are Ankush Dahiya (60kg), Ashish (64kg) and Reyal Puri (81kg).
“It is a matter of pride that boxers will now be able to compete under the Indian flag and it is a promise that all those who win medals will be amply rewarded on returning,” BFI President Ajay Singh told the team in the send-off.
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The teenagers, enthused by their first moments in the spotlight, spoke of their initiation into the sport, which has only recently come out of an administrative mess of four years.
“I took up boxing because my cousin brother is a boxer. I was inspired by him,” said Ashish. The brother he was speaking of is Commonwealth Games and Asian Championships bronze-medallist Jai Bhagwan, who is now serving in Haryana Police.
For Anwar (52kg), the reigning national champion, the sport became a passion after some informal sparring with friends in his village.
On the other hand, Naman (91kg) and Amanjeet Singh (+91kg) picked up the gloves to shed flab to start with. “Boxing was merely for weight loss initially but now I love the sport,” said Naman.
The BFI chief promised the youngsters that the new federation will do all it can to put the sport back on track. “We have to get rid of the defeatist mentality. I am making a promise that the best of facilities would be provided to you so that you don’t have any reason to feel left out,” Singh said.
The event, which gave India the likes of World Championships medallists Shiva Thapa and Vikas Krishan, will be held till November 24. While Vikas had won a gold, Shiva had clinched a silver in the 2010 edition of the tournament.
However, in the 2014 Championships, India had managed just a bronze and would be looking to improve on that performance.