A few days back, Bhiwani was just another nondescript north Indian town. Its unique feat of sending five boxers to the Olympics was known to only the die-hard sports fan.
Eight days into the Games the scenario changed, and how. The entire nation --- and probably some boxing pockets in the world --- have been enthralled by the exploits of the Bhiwani pugilists --- Akhil Kumar, Jitender Kumar and Vijender Kumar. The three are on the cusp of rewriting Indian boxing history, and this city now hopes for at least one medal from its quarter-finalist trio.
Famous it's now become but it isn't as if Bhiwani evolved into a boxing mecca overnight with the three Kumars booking quarter-final berths. "Boxing is in our blood. This is the best way we can earn name and fame," Vijender had said before leaving for Beijing. "Boxing was always popular in the city and, with the coming of some big names in the recent times, the sport has fanned the imagination of many a youngster," he added.
Boxing has come up in such a big way in the last couple of years that many private academies have mushroomed. The city that used to have only two centres in the 80s now has eight, including five private schools coaching more than a 1,000 boxers. This all started with late Hawa Singh and Rajinder Singh Yadav, who contributed a lot to producing world-class boxers. Now the baton has been passed on to Sports Authority of India (SAI) coach Jagdish Singh. He has been instrumental in producing numerous international-level boxers including Akhil, Vijender, Jatinder and Dinesh.
"We are getting lot of trainees from nearby villages, but the maximum come from village Kalwash. There is a boxer in almost every house of the village and the sport is as popular as cricket," said SAI coach Jagdish Singh.