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Dingko Singh, former Asian Games gold medallist, battles cancer

Dingko Singh, who took Indian boxing by storm by winning the 1998 Asian Games gold medal in Bangkok, is battling liver cancer

other sports Updated: Jan 31, 2017 22:44 IST
N Ananthanarayanan
Dingko Singh, the Indian boxer who won the Asian Games gold medal in 1998 in Bangkok, is battling liver cancer.
Dingko Singh, the Indian boxer who won the Asian Games gold medal in 1998 in Bangkok, is battling liver cancer.(Saumya Khandelwal/HT PHOTO)

Dingko Singh, the boxer whose remarkable run to gold at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games captivated the nation and spurred home state Manipur’s sporting rise, is weathering life’s harsh blows.

The 37-year-old Dingko, who ended India’s 16-year wait for an Asian Games boxing victory in the bantamweight division in the Thai capital, is battling liver cancer.

The former Navy boxer who is currently a coach, underwent surgery earlier this month and a large part of his liver was removed, but is struggling to raise funds for the expensive treatment.

Dingko Singh, married with two children, reportedly had to sell his house in Imphal to raise money for the treatment in Delhi.

Dingko’s is an inspirational story, the first big name from the ring in the last two decades, well before the rise of Vijender Singh as an Olympic medallist and India’s best pro fighter yet.

A talented boxer, Dingko was surprisingly omitted from the initial squad for the Bangkok Games. The depressed boxer took to drinking heavily in the national camp, but was calmed by the coaches before being reinstated at the last moment.

In Bangkok, he came through a tough semifinal against a Thai opponent before claiming gold after his opponent in the final could not continue due to a fracture suffered during his semifinal win.

Dingko Singh’s success in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games inspired Mary Kom to take up boxing. (Saumya Khandelwal/HT PHOTO)

An anxious Manipur state, struggling through long phases of power cut, erupted in joy. In fact, London Olympics bronze medallist, Mary Kom, has said it was Dingko’s success that inspired her to take up boxing.

Dingko Singh’s career though ended prematurely, due to official apathy. At the 1999 National Games in Imphal, he reached the final but was left without an opponent after Birju Saha pulled out.

With hundreds of fans assembled to see their favourite son in action, officials set up an exhibition against Andhra boxer, Sriramulu. Dingko put on a show, but fractured his wrist during the bout.

With hand in cast, Dingko was in no shape to go on a training stint to Cuba. But officials, fearing that the tour may be called off if the star boxer didn’t go, cruelly persuaded him to take off the cast before attending a function by then sports minister, Uma Bharti, to distribute cash prizes by the government.

That proved a knockout blow as even after a fresh cast was put, the fracture never set perfectly. Though he did make a return to the ring, he came nowhere near his best.

Although boxing federation bosses denied the incident, Dingko admitted years later that taking off the plaster destroyed his career, and dreams of an Olympic medal in Sydney.

There will be many more future Dingkos waiting to be guided by the original one once he is fit to return to coaching.