Pune Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune under the aegis of the Services Sports Control Board, will be conducting the 3rd Elite Men’s Boxing National Championship on behalf of the Boxing Federation of India from October 27 up until November 2. The Army Sports Institute at Mundhwa road, Ghorpadi, will host the one-week boxing extravaganza.The tournament will see 360 boxers participate from 29 states and seven union territories in the country with events for all ten weight categories being in play. Boxers for the national camps along with next year’s Olympic qualifiers will be shortlisted.Olympian Shiva Thapa (Asian Games and Commonwealth Games medallist and Arjuna awardee); Subedar Satish Kumar (Commonwealth Games 2018 silver medallist and Arjuna awardee 2018); Naib Subedar Manish Kaushik (Commonwealth Games 2018 silver medallist); Naman Tanwar (Commonwealth Games 2018 bronze medallist) and Gaurav Biduri (Senior World Championship bronze medallist) are some of the top boxers who will be participating in this National Boxing Championship.Lt Col KS Dhaliwal, ASI, Pune, spoke exclusively to Hindustan Times explaining the federation’s decision to conduct the competition in Pune and what the sport of boxing has in store for the foreseeable future.What made the federation pick Pune as the venue for the National Boxing Championship?This will be the first time it’s being organised at the Army Sports Institute. Since the top six boxers in the Indian boxing contingent are from the Army Sports Institute (Naib Subedar Amit Panghal; Naib Subedar Manish Kaushik; Naib Subedar Dheeraj Rangi; Naib Subedar Mohammad Hussamuddin; Subedar Satish Kumar and Havaldar Gaurav Solanki), so considering the contribution of the army, the Indian Boxing Federation decided to hold the tournament here in Pune.Why is this such an important tournament in terms of Indian boxing and what is at stake for the winners?Next year, we have the Olympic qualifying tournaments. So, this national level tournament is very important from the point of view of the Olympics. All the boxers who will win the nationals, will be chosen for the qualifiers that happen in 2019. They will come into the national camp. Once they are in the national camp, then the trails are held for any international tournament. For getting into the national camp, the nationals [in Pune] are very important. Next year is very crucial for India, if we are to qualify for certain weight categories for the 2020 Olympics.How are the preparations shaping up with the tournament only a few days away?Everything is in place in terms of facilities. We have adequate training halls which have been converted to hold this championship. Apart from that, we have looked after the boarding, dining and lodging arrangements. We are also establishing receptions at the airport and various railway stations to get the teams to the venue.Will all the states have boxers in each weight category?There are 10 weight categories in boxing. So every state will put their fighters into the different classes. The major stakeholders are Haryana, Assam and Manipur. A majority of the states will try to field ten boxers each into the different weight categories.In terms of a broader perspective, what needs to be done for India to win a gold medal at the Olympics?Presently, the federation has hired some foreign coaches due to whom we’ve done well in the Commonwealth Games. In fact, the only Asian Games gold medallist Amit Panghal is a product of the Army Sports Institute. Apart from that, what I feel is foreign exposure is the only thing which is required. Because where the technique, the commitment and the devotion is concerned, I don’t think our boxers are lacking in anything. So we just need some foreign exposure and more number of competitions because at the national level there are very few competitions. However, now with the launch of Khelo India school games, I’m sure we’ll have more number of competitions for a boxer to improve his technique, endurance and experience.