Accomplished names such as World Championship medallist Shiva Thapa and CWG gold-winner Manoj Kumar will compete in higher weight categories with fresh pool of talent seeking limelight when the much-delayed Men’s National Boxing Championship starts in Guwahati on Thursday.
Uncovering new talent would without doubt be the primary aim of the event but not to be missed is the fresh start that some established names would be making.
Among the prominent are two-time Olympians Manoj and Shiva, both of whom have decided to go higher.
The 29-year-old Manoj, who would be competing for the Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), will be making his debut in the welterweight (69kg) after deciding to jump a division post Rio Olympics.
“It was becoming difficult to maintain 64kg and I was picking up injuries in my struggle to maintain weight. So I decided to jump a division,” said Manoj, who defeated Commonwealth Games silver-winner Mandeep Jangra in the Railways’ trials to book his berth for the Nationals.
Another star attraction would be local favourite Shiva, who will be representing Assam after jumping from bantamweight (56kg) to lightweight (60kg). The 22-year-old would be competing in his first event after the opening-round loss at Rio Olympics to eventual gold-medallist Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba.
“I have decided to compete in lightweight because after I felt comfortable in this division after hard training. For now, this is only for the Nationals because there wasn’t much time at hand to push my body for bantamweight,” Shiva, a world bronze-winner besides being an Asian champion, said.
“I will take a call on whether to continue in lightweight after the Nationals. I have been training in Pune to get back in shape because this is my first competition after Rio Olympics,” he added.
In all, 33 teams and close to 300 boxers have confirmed participation in the event, the first to be conducted in two years.
“Three rings have been put in place in an indoor hall, which is a first for a national event. The preliminaries will be conducted in three rings so that bouts get over in decent time and boxers get enough time for rest and recovery. The semifinals and finals will be held in one ring though, which is a norm in all international events as well,” Assam Boxing Association Secretary Hemanta Kalita told PTI.
It would be a comeback of sorts for another Olympian L Devendro Singh, among the best that India has in men’s boxing.
The diminutive light flyweight boxer from Manipur would be turning up for the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB), his first competitive outing after the heartbreak he endured at the final Asian Olympic Qualifiers in June.
The 22-year-old won a bronze medal but missed out on qualifying for the Rio Games after losing a closely-contested box-off. Devendro missing out on an Olympic berth was among the biggest shockers for Indian boxing this year given that he had displayed excellent form in the events leading up to the Games.
The National Championships would be an opportunity for him for the Asian Championships silver-medallist to make a fresh start. Among the big names missing in action would be former Asian Games gold-medallist Vikas Krishan, who is training in the United States.