After a dismal show at the Rio Olympics last year, where the contingent returned without any medal, India will look to make amends at the World Championship, which begins in Hamburg on Friday. The country has sent its biggest-ever contingent at the Worlds, comprising eight boxers. Whether that translates into more medals, though, remains to be seen.
The debutants: Amit Panghal (49kg), Kavinder Singh Bisht (52kg)
At the Usti nad Labem Grand Prix last month, Panghal, who usually fights in the 49kg, defeated Kavinder for the 52kg title. It was a rare all-Indian final, ending with a third-straight international medal for Panghal in his first year as a senior pro. But the World Championship will be his toughest test yet.
The 21-year-old national champion has a bronze-medal at the Asian Championship, where he lost to Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dustamov in the semifinal. He will face Dustamov again in the quarterfinal if he navigates past the firs two rounds, but Panghal can pull off a surprise in Hamburg.
In the corner: Santiago Nieva
To fill the void left by Cuban coach BI Fernandez’s departure, the federation roped in Santiago Nieva, a former bantam and featherweight boxer, who was the Swedish national coach for eight years. The 42-year-old has also served as a manager of the Argentine boxing team and even competed for the country at the 1997 World Cup.
His appointment was among the string of changes made by the Boxing Federation of India in the coaching staff following the country’s dismal show at the Olympics. Gurbax Singh Sandhu, too, stepped down as the national coach. Nivea’s contract is till the World Championships but a good show by the team would result in an extension.
Medal hopes: Shiva Thapa (60kg), VIkas Krishan (75kg)
Vikas Krishan was embroiled in a tiff with the federation for forfeiting his Asian Championship semifinal but was ultimately let off with a warning. Krishan has a relatively comfortable draw but will have to beat sixth seed Oleksandr Khyzhniak and second seed Hosam Abdin to reach the final.
Shiva Thapa comes on the back of a few good performances, which include a gold in Czech Republic last month and a silver at the Asian C’ship. He has been handed a tricky draw and is likely to meet Uzbekistan’s Elnur Abduraimov in the quarters and top seed Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in semis.
49: India are placed joint 49th in the all-time medal count, with a bronze each from the 2009, 2011 and 2015 editions. Thapa (2015), Krishan (2011) and Vijender (2009) are the only ones with podium finishes.
280: Total number of boxers taking part in the World Championships. They will compete for 10 gold medals on offer in different weight categories. India has sent an 8-member contingent for the event.