Indian boxers will return home from Glasgow with a seemingly rich haul of five medals (four silver, one bronze). But a closer look at the results reveals there’s no silver lining, after all. At the Delhi Commonwealth Games four years ago, 10 Indian boxers won seven medals (three gold and four bronze). In contrast, the 11 pugilists who participated in the Glasgow Games managed fewer medals and none could finish on the top of the podium. Among the Commonwealth nations, Indian boxers are some of the best. So reaching the medal rounds wasn’t their real challenge. Winning gold was. And they failed in that. But it’ll be unfair to point fingers only at the boxers. After Vijender Singh’s bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and the medal rush that followed two years later in Delhi, India was fast emerging as a powerhouse of amateur boxing. As is often the case in Indian sport, however, officials governing the sport have done more harm than good.
The appointment of former Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) president Abhay Singh Chautala’s brother-in-law Abhishek Matoria as his successor in September 2012 was viewed by the sport’s governing body as manipulation of polls and, subsequently, the country was suspended from participating in events. Efforts to elect a new body have not come to fruition and the Indian body’s suspension has now lasted nearly two years.
The ban has had a direct impact on the boxers. With various countries being wary of antagonising the world governing body, AIBA, invitations to international tournaments reduced significantly, resulting in Indian boxers sparring among each other at camps. Moreover, junior and senior boxing championships have not been conducted regularly, which has further resulted in stagnation. The new rules of competing without headgear and a revised scoring pattern have changed the face of amateur boxing. Indian boxers were at a disadvantage because they had not competed enough under the new scoring system and without the headgear. That ultimately cost them at Glasgow.