Indian boxing never had it so good. An unprecedented five pugilists have qualified for the Beijing Olympics. Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Jitender Kumar became the fifth boxer to make the cut after winning the third-place playoff in the Asian Boxing Qualifiers in Kazakhstan on Sunday. He joined Doha Asian Games bronze medallist Vijender, Dinesh Kumar, A.L. Lakra, and Akhil Kumar, who prevailed in previous qualifiers. This is particularly good news for Indian sports lovers who are desperately looking for some cheer after the hockey team was knocked out of the Olympics.
The way they fought in the qualifiers, these young fighters have apparently learned to take more punches than they land — overcoming a major weakness of Indian boxers. The more intense the thrust and parry, the tougher it gets for a boxer. It is this toughness that breeds quality. Besides the speed, stamina and strength of boxers from advanced countries that often put Indian boxers at a disadvantage, a major hurdle before them is the lack of international exposure. Top boxers get hundreds of international competitions in a year, while Indian boxers hardly get a score of such international challenges.
That Indian boxers are knocking out competition despite all this speaks volumes about their immense potential. The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation must realise this potential and develop the sport in a bigger way. Except at the National Institute for Sports, Patiala, and the Sports Authority of India centre in Bangalore, there are not even gymnasia where potential champions can train. Indian pugilists can be amongst the best in the world, as their high fives at the Olympics qualifiers show.