Former junior Asian champion Santosh Harijan of Goa dislocated his left shoulder during the senior nationals last year and was left in the lurch by the authorities with no financial support for treatment and rehabilitation.
But the youngster had a godfather in Italian Frabrizio Petroni who not only took care of his rehabilitation but also has been instrumental in shaping Harijan’s career.
Petroni, a former amateur boxer, has been instrumental in putting Goa on the national boxing map through his Tiger Boxing Centre in Chapora, North Goa, where about 20 boys and girls train for free. The state has fielded a six-member team in the Super Cup boxing meet here and three of their pugilists have made it to the semifinals.
"We don't have to pay for anything. Everything is taken care of and accommodation is provided free of cost for those players who stay far away," explains Harijan.
Petroni funds this endeavour through a state-of-art gymnasium that caters to foreigners. "I don't charge the local boys. But the foreigners who come to the gym and even some foreign boxers who come to train with me pay for running the centre," he told HT.
The 38-year-old shifted base to India in 2000 on the recommendation of his wife and started the training centre in September that year. The centre has so far given Goa their first international boxer, Praveen Shirodkar, and their trainee Sonia Parab was the only gold medallist for the state in the Guwahati National Games.