The decks may have been cleared for the Indian boxers’ participation in the Asian Games at Incheon after Boxing India (BI) successfully held its elections in Mumbai on Thursday. Sandeep Jajodia, the chairman of Monnet Ispat, the long-time sponsors of boxing in the country, was elected as the first-ever president of BI for a four-year term.
Jajodia was representing Chattisgarh Boxing Association in the election that was conducted via secret ballot and overseen by two observers — long-serving Mumbai-based boxing official Kishen Narsi and AIBA’s legal manager Cliodhna Guy — appointed by the International Boxing Association.
The election brought an end to a one-and-a-half-year period where Indian boxing had no official body and was run by an ad-hoc committee. Narsi had been part of that committee but stepped down after being named as an observer by AIBA.
The biggest impact of the clean election, however, will be felt by the 13 Incheon-bound pugilists. Earlier, AIBA had threatened that if the elections had not been held on or before September 11, the participation of the Indian boxers at the Asiad wasn’t guaranteed.
“We will be sending our report to the AIBA soon to ensure it can start the process. As I see it, there shouldn’t be any issue for our boxers in terms of participating in the Asian Games, and they will do so under the Indian flag,” said Narsi.
“A process has been followed and its results will be sent to the AIBA Executive Council (for clearance). Yes, the Games are starting next week. But there’s time as boxing events start only on September 23,” he added.
In his first interaction after being sworn in as BI chief, Jajodia insisted that his top-most priority was to stage the nationals and bring an end to the extended cooling period that Indian boxers have had to endure at home. He also went on to say that the elections would also pave the path for Indian boxers to be part of franchises in two AIBA-promoted formats, the World Series of Boxing (WSB), which has now become an Olympic qualifying tournament, and Pro-Boxing.
Sharing the podium with Jajodia was newly elected secretary general Jay Kowli and Udit Sheth, CEO of TransStadia, who have been major backers of BI and also the owners of Mumbai Fighters — the now ‘defunct’ franchise and the only Indian representative in the WSB.
No conflict of interest
But Jajodia shot down suggestions of there being a ‘conflict of interest’ with him wearing two hats at the same time – that of the BI president and Monnet chief. “I have already decided that I will not be part of any discussions that involve sponsorships or anything related to Monnet, and will allow the other members of the committee to tackle the matter without any involvement of mine,” he said.
Kowli, a long-standing boxing judge and senior fuctionary of Maharashtra Boxing Association, meanwhile, felt having all stakeholders in the BI’s committee was if anything a perfect equation.
“Most of the 10 vice-presidents that were elected are former boxers, just like me. Now we have the main sponsors, a team owner (Sheth), a bunch of administrators and those who have been active performers in the ring all on the same table and working towards reforming the sport from youth development, national calendar for competitions and hosting of international events,” he said.