“This time, I am not putting extra pressure on the boxers.” That’s what national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said before leaving with the eight-member men’s boxing team earlier this week for Glasgow Commonwealth games. Sandhu’s statement is surprising, considering it comes from a coach, who led Indian boxers to their best ever haul in Commonwealth Games in Delhi four years ago with seven medals including three gold medals. However those who have been following Indian boxing will understand the sentiment.
Barring a couple of tournaments, the Indian men’s team has not taken part in any competition since the last ten months but Sandhu knows that the youngsters in the team need to prove a point in Glasgow before Asian Games later this year and Rio Olympics in 2016. “Of course, we had home advantage last time. And the boxers showed their eagerness to win medals. In boxing a lot of things like crowd support and familiar stadiums matter and these things supported our performance,” said Sandhu.
If the last Commonwealth Games saw the emergence of boxers like Manoj Kumar and Paramjeet Samota who stamped their authority in 64 Kg and +91 Kg categories, Sandhu knows that this time, it’s the turn of youngsters like Asian champion Shiva Thapa, London Olympics quarter-finalists Devendro Singh and Sumit Sangwan to show their class. The trio, who are in their early 20’s, have often lost at crucial stages in tournaments and have yet to taste gold in a major continental championship.
Thapa’s gold medal in last year’s Asian Championship, Devendro’s silver at the same event and more recently, his gold in the Bocksai Invitation tournament recently, has been the only addition in the young trio’s CV. While Thapa and Sangwan lost in the quarter-finals in last year’s World Championship in Kazakhstan, Devendro had to miss out on the berth to Kazakhstan due to injury suffered in the trials.
“Yes, they were disappointed after London Olympics and World Championships but it has been a new start from them. Shiva became the Asian Champion last year and often spends time training with Devendro. Same goes with Sumit, who understands that it’s just start of his career. Last time, we saw new comers like Manoj and Samota winning the gold and it gave them a lot of confidence. These boxers also know this and I will be happy to see them winning medals,’ said Sandhu
.As someone, who became India’s second gold medallist in Commonwealth games in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, Akhil Kumar has seen many ups and downs in his boxing career. But Kumar rates the Melbourne win highly and expects the same for the trio. “I lost early in Athens Olympics but a title win in Melbourne gave me everything I wanted. It gave me confidence and silenced my critics, who had been opposing my open guard style. Since 1930, India only has five gold medals in Commonwealth games and it will be difficult this time too. Scotland,Wales and Northern Ireland will pose tough competition and then there are boxers from countries like Bahamas and Botswana who can surprise in lower weight categories. In smaller weight categories, our key is speed and fitness while European boxers rely on stamina and strength.But a title win in Glasgow will make the youngsters Lambi race ka ghoda,” opines Kumar.