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Thursday, Sep 19, 2019

Bhiwani losing its punch, Armymen rule

Bhiwani became synonymous with boxing post the 2000 Sydney Olympics after the sleepy town flooded the arenas with hundreds of talented pugilists

other-sports Updated: Sep 07, 2019 10:52 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Chandigarh
Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh also hails from Bhiwani
Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh also hails from Bhiwani(ANI)
         

Is Bhiwani, the nerve centre of Indian boxing, losing its punch? With six of the eight boxers in the World Championships squad from the Indian Army, it seems the armed forces are fighting back to regain lost pride after nearly two decades.

Bhiwani became synonymous with boxing post the 2000 Sydney Olympics after the sleepy town flooded the arenas with hundreds of talented pugilists.

But now the town — which started being called ‘mini Cuba’ following the success of the likes of Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar Jitender and Dinesh Kumar, to name a few — seems to be losing its sheen.

Of the eight boxers bound for the Worlds, Amit Panghal (52kg), Kavinder Singh Bisht (57kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Duryodhan Singh Negi (69kg), Sanjeet (91kg), and Satish Kumar (+91kg) are from the Army, while Brijesh Yadav (81kg) represents Rajasthan Police and the lone civilian, Ashish Kumar (75kg), is from Himachal Pradesh.

New challenge

Dronacharya awardee coach, Jagdish Singh, says, “It’s not that Bhiwani has lost its sheen. Even today, you’ll find more than a thousand boxers training in various clubs in the city. But, over the years, boxers from other centres across the country too have improved and are challenging the Bhiwani boxers.

“There was a time when half of the men’s national squad in all age groups comprised of boxers from Bhiwani.

“Now, things have changed and there is only one boxer in the World Championships squad from Bhiwani, and he too is representing the Army,” says Singh, who played a key role in Bhiwani emerging as the hub of Indian boxing post the Sydney Olympics.

Army’s dominance

Boxing received a huge boost when the Army Sports Institute in Pune established a centre under ‘Mission Olympics’ in 2001.

They targeted kids under 14 years of age, and those same kids are now bringing them glory.

“Six Army boxers in the World Championships squad is a big achievement. The credit for this goes to the Boys Sports Company,” says Rajesh Bhandari, director coaching and vice-president of the Boxing Federation of India.

“Post Sydney, there was a dip in the Army’s contribution to the national squad. But with the Boys Sports Company working as a feeder, the Army Sports Institute has become the centre of excellence,” says Dronacharya awardee BB Mohanty, who served as coach in the Indian Army for more than two decades.

First Published: Sep 07, 2019 10:52 IST