Indian boxing is on a high. On Saturday, pugilists Vijender (75kg class) and Dinesh Kumar (81kg) qualified for the Beijing Olympics in Astana, Kazakhstan. On Sunday, Jitender Kumar (51kg) too made the cut.
Along with AL Lakra (57kg) and Railwayman Akhil Kumar (54kg), this makes it an all-time high of five Indian qualifiers, and counting.
What makes this even more fascinating is that four of these are from Haryana. They even belong to the same club, the Bhiwani Boxing Club (referred to by locals as the BBC) run by Sports Authority of India coach Jagdish Singh.
It is extraordinary for four boxers from the same club to make it to the same Olympics. Jagdish, overlooked for a Dronacharya Award last year, is elated. “I am now waiting for the day one of them wins the country’s first-ever Olympic boxing medal in Beijing,” he told HT from Bhiwani.
Vijender stands a decent chance of a podium finish in Beijing, while Lakra, who qualified at the World Championships in Chicago last October, is also a serious contender.
Bhiwani’s boxing connection goes back to the 1970s when local lad Hawa Singh won an Arjuna Award. Three of four pugilists who qualified for the 2004 Athens Olympics, Jitender Kumar (Sr), Akhil and Vijender, were from Bhiwani. Later, interest in the sport waned, but Rajkumar Sangwan’s Asian medal sparked a revival in the 90s. As HT reported last June, boxing got big in Bhiwani after some players from there, got jobs with the Railways.