Delhi will soon match Madison Square Garden - both in terms of glitz, glamour and quality. A Mohammad Ali or Mike Tyson might not be present, but some of the greatest Olympic boxers will fight it out for fame and money.
Come September next year, Delhi will host the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Series Boxing Championships. Videocon, the franchise that has successfully bid for the India team, has chosen the capital as the venue.
Akin to professional boxers, the pugilists will fight bareheaded and bare-chested and will stop at nothing, not even a face peppered with cuts and smeared with blood.
Delhi will be amongst 12 host cities of the series — four each from Asia, America and Europe and worth $10 million — where some of the top boxers of the world will slug it out in an inter-continental series modelled on the lines of professional boxing.
Speaking to HT, PK Muralidharan Raja, general-secretary, Indian Boxing Federation, said: “It will change the face of Indian boxing.”
Each franchise will have a team of minimum 10 boxers including at least three foreign imports in five weight categories. “Earlier, Indian boxers could only look forward to an Arjuna Award or may be some money by way of sponsorship. With the WSB, they can dream big, really big, somewhere in the range of $30,000 to 300,000 or maybe more,” said Raja.
Pradeep Dhoot, president Videocon, said: “WSB will help India attain global standards. We are excited and enthusiastic about our association.”
AIBA has so far short-listed 100 pugilists from all over the globe and the franchises will take their pick during the AIBA World Championships in Milan later this year. These 100 pugilists, picked by the WSB selection panel, will also include Indians. The pool will gradually be increased to 200 so that the franchises can have reserves.
In the bid to cash in on a hitherto untapped market, the IBF, like WSB, has made plans for a domestic series. “Once the success of WSB is guaranteed, we will look at a domestic series on similar lines where we can have franchises from Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi,” said Raja.