The slight chaos was not to be missed but neither was there any lack of spark inside the ring as India’s competition-starved women boxers began their campaigns in the first National Championship to be held in over two years.
The Championship, being conducted by the recently-formed Boxing Federation of India, is being held in an air-conditioned indoor hall, which has two rings to ensure that bouts get over in time.
It’s a marked improvement for the Nationals, which have, in the past, been conducted open air and in a single ring, stretching schedules to close to midnight on some occasions.
Former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen was the cynosure of all eyes today as she took the first step towards staking a claim on the 51kg category, which was owned by a certain M C Mary Kom for the longest time. Nikhat, representing Telangana, won her opening contest with a clinical 3-0 win over Uttar Pradesh’s Rajani Singh.
Mary Kom was also there in the arena but nowhere close to the ring. The five-time world champion and London Olympics bronze-medallist, who chose to opt out of the event, delivered a motivating speech for the participating boxers urging them to be fearless and always aim high.
Asked if she saw another one like her in the making among those competing here, the Manipuri star, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP now, said, “I could have answered that had I stayed here for the entire Championships. But I am leaving this evening.”
She happily posed for selfies with not just boxers but also technical officials before the frenzy got a bit too much for her to handle.
Also there on the podium alongside Mary Kom was Asian Games bronze-medallist L Sarita Devi, who wanted to compete but was forced out by injury.
The unmistakable enthusiasm aside, organisers were left in quite a quandary when the Chief Guest of the day, state Chief Minister Harish Rawat, landed up at the venue a good three hours before the scheduled time.
The CM, however, did not spend too much time at the venue and left after taking a round of the hall.
BFI President Ajay Singh was there in attendance and promised that the conduct of the Championship would only get better with each passing year. Already, the federation has kept aside Rs 4 lakh for the cash prizes to be presented to the medal winners.
Despite their schedule going haywire, the boxers were in high spirits and some engaging contest were on display in the opening day proceedings.
Most of the boxers in fray are hardly known beyond their teams as lack of competition in the last four years did not give them enough chances to make a name for themselves.
But there were some old faces to be seen and a prominent one among them was former National Games gold-medallist Vanlal Duati of Tripura, who scored an impressive Technical Knockout win in her flyweight opener.
“It is the first step towards bringing back a sense of normalcy to Indian boxing. There may have been slight issues here and there but a start has been made,” said BFI chief Ajay Singh, summing up the mood of the day.