It’s a national championship with a difference. For a change, country’s top pugilists will step into the ring to fight not just for pride and honour, but also for money and a place in the Commonwealth Games team.
With the Indian Boxing Federation making participation in this event compulsory for all boxers, irrespective of performance and stature, the nationals starting from Saturday will have its fair share of stars. Though Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh is skipping the meet due to injury, Akhil Kumar, though a shade ‘overweight’ for his pet 56kg category, will add glamour to the meet with his presence in the 60kg. “I was nursing a tendonitis injury on my knees since June 5 and was advised rest for three weeks,” explained Akhil Kumar, who is still recovering. “And since I had learnt about the new criteria (compulsory participation) laid down by the federation just a few days ago, I had little time to get back to my weight category. But at the Commonwealth Games, I will compete in the 56kg.”
For the federation, however, such a diktat was mandatory to give every boxer a chance.
“We have some of the best boxers in the world right now. We want to give everybody a level playing field, so we decided to make it compulsory for every boxer to participate, to be eligible for selection in the Commonwealth Games team,” explained PK Muralidharan Raja, the secretary of the IBF. “If someone performs exceptionally well, his name will be considered for the Core Group. We will review the Group and replace a pugilist suitably.”
“Also, since the Asian Games will be barely a month after the Delhi Games, we do not want to take a chance with injury. With this, we can have a backup ready for anyone who will be injured or not fit,” said Raja.
Asian champion Suranjoy Singh has no qualms about mandatory participation. “I love to box and will participate whenever I get a chance,” he said with a smile.
The boxers, like the last edition will get money for winning a bout. With the IBF able to rope in sponsors like Videocon and Monnet, the boxers will get Rs 1000 for a win in the preliminary round which will increase to Rs 2000 in the quarters, Rs 4000 in the semis and Rs 6000 in the final. If a boxer wins the title, he will get around Rs 25,000.
Stars to watch out for
Amandeep Singh, who has been in scintillating form after winning the 48kg gold at the Commonwealth Championships held in Delhi, will be the favourite in his category.
In 56kg, in the absence of Jitender and Akhil, Chote Lal of the Services will be a strong contender. Manoj Kumar and Balwinder Beniwal will vie for the 64kg title. Other stars are Commonwealth Championship winner Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Dilbagh Singh (69kg) and Dinesh (81kg).
First venue operation team
PTI/HTC: The first venue operation team of the Commonwealth Games was set up at the Talkatora Boxing stadium. The team, headed by IPS M S Upadhye, will have 80 members from OC and 500 volunteers.
Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi reiterated that India will deliver the best-ever Games.
Meanwhile, the Queen’s Baton Relay will make a stopover at Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh’s hometown Bhiwani after its route was re-worked at the boxer’s request. “I thank OC chief Mr Suresh Kalmadi,” said Vijender.