Chance for Ramanand to sting his detractors
The most romantic story of the previous Asian Games was probably that of Dingko Singh. Sent in as a late entry to Bangkok, after a lot of consideration since he was thought to be unfit, the Manipuri went to win gold in the bantamweight category - the first for India in boxing in 16 years.
In a dream bout, Dingko beat the local favourite in front of a partisan Thai crowd in the final. Now four years later, things seem different. This time if one were not to send Dingko, even the boxer himself --- who reportedly took to the bottle in a fit of depression following his non-clearance the first time in 1998 - would not take it too badly.
The feeling in Patiala, where the boxing camp was held, was that not having boxed in top flight competition for over two years and having suffered first round ousters at both the Sydney Olympics and the recent Commonwealth Games, Dingko is being taken to the Asian Games on the dint of his reputation alone.
But with a boxer of Dingko's pedigree, that's okay. He just might do it again, as he thrives on being stung and slighted. The Bangkok performance was a way to show those who found him unfit that he could deliver. He apparently wept at the Delhi airport on seeing the reception accorded to the triumphant Commonwealth Games Indian contingent, and in particular, boxers Mohd. Ali Qamar and Som Bahadur Pun.
It looks like the powers that be have done Indian boxing a good turn. Hanging in balance, like Dingko was last time, was Ramanand this time in the lightweight category. Insiders in the Patiala camp felt that Ramanand was perhaps the biggest Indian medal hope this time, and his non-inclusion in the first team perplexed many. If Dingko could be selected, despite not having fought for nearly two seasons, then why not Ramanand, was the question that begged an answer. In a late development, Ramanand was included in the team as were heavyweight Johnson, welterweight Sanjay Kumar and Dalbir Singh.
The luck of the draw notwithstanding, Indian boxers need that one bout to swing things in their favour. Boxing this time could provide a pleasant surprise or two. And it is Ramanand, more than any of the nine Indian boxers, who appears to have it in him.
"I was not picked because of my poor performance at the Commonwealth Games," he had said as he awaited his selection in Patiala. But scratch the surface and you find a pretty good record in the past two seasons.
Consider this: Ramanand has already beaten the top-ranked Malaysian three times before. "I only lost my bout in the Commonwealth Games on individual points. I am surprised why I was not picked in the first list," Ramanand had said.
In 2001, he won gold in the Grand Prix at the Czech Republic, and took bronze in the Blaxi Cup in Ukraine. In the final outing last year, in the Taimur Cup in Finland, he was given the Most Technical Boxer Award in addition to his gold.
Now that he finds himself in the team, Ramanand finds a golden opportunity to emulate the exploits of Dingko. After all, the circumstances have already been created for another episode of this dream to turn real.
It's all there. Anger, disappointment and hope --- ingredients boxers thrive on, and all in good measure this time too. Everything seems in place. All Ramanand needs now is to dance.
Reminded of Dingko?
Ramanand, like Dingko Singh in 1998, was not picked for the Busan Games in the first list.
Dingko was considered unfit in 1998, Ramanand was said to have suffered from slump in form.
Insiders feel that like Dingko in 1998, Ramanand is perhaps the biggest Indian medal hope in boxing this time.
Stung and slighted, Dingko bagged gold in 1998. It's Ramanand's turn to pull a punch now.