The powers that be and corporate houses did what they could to take the limelight at the ‘farwell’ press conference for India’s largest-ever boxing contingent. They sat in the centre of the stage and gave long and congratulatory speeches on how their inputs have helped Indian boxing to progress. Ultimately, it was the man who’s brought Indian boxing into public consciousness who stole the show.
One would have thought that Vijender Singh was present in the capacity of a stand-up comedian, given the laughter his comments elicited. When asked if the Beijing bronze medalist had tips for his less experienced compatriots, Vijender made it clear that he was looking out for himself. “First, I’ll keep all the important tips to myself, then, maybe I'll pass it on to the other guys.”
In all seriousness, though, Vijender has every reason to focus on himself. The principal sponsor of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, Monnet Group, has promised cash prizes of R11 lakh to any boxer who wins a bronze medal. The figure rises to Rs 21 lakh for winning silver and Rs 51 lakh for gold.
Vijender made it clear that planning and preparation was no substitute for facing an opponent in the ring. “Inside the ring, it is all about punching and getting punched. All the planning gets left outside of the ring at that point.”
MC Mary Kom, the only woman pugilist to represent India at the Olympics, was confident but said, “Things will depend on the draw as well.”
Shiva Thapa, the youngest member of the team, was thrilled to be part of one of the greatest sporting spectacles. “I am sure it will be an experience I will never forget,” he said. “Hopefully, I will come back with some good memories.”
Devendro, one of Shiva’s best friends, too hoped that he would come back with a medal. “I know it’s going to be difficult, but I am hoping to do well,” he said.
World championship medallist Vikas Krishan said he would go all out for a medal. "I am going with a positive frame of mind.”