A strategic change in the technique of punching turned the Indian boxers’ fortunes around after the 2004 Olympic Games, the secretary-general of the Indian Boxing Federation, P K Muralidharan Raja said here today.
“Four Indian boxers, including Vijender Singh (2008 Games bronze medal winner) and Akhil Kumar were eliminated in the first round itself at the Athens Olympic after which we changed their technique to lay emphasis on straight punches,” said Raja.
According to Raja, who was a panel speaker at a symposium on boxing in the India International Sports Summit organised by TransStadia here today, the re-thinking on the strategy to rely only on jabs occurred after seeing the boxers’ dismal show at the Athens where he was a ring-side judge.
“Coaches G S Sandhu and B I Fernandez and I got together on the fifth and sixth day of boxing at the Games, watched the scoring patterns and realised that only straight punches earned points. We came back and called all the national level coaches to Patiala and decided to penalise boxers at the next national camp if they employed the upper cuts and hooks. We caught on to the scoring system early and benefited,” explained Raja.
At the next major event - the Commonwealth Championships in 2005 - India returned with four medals. Thereafter, at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, they won a gold, two silver and two bronze (to stand third behind England and Australia).
India went one step ahead two years later in Beijing with Vijender clinching the country’s maiden boxing medal at the Olympics.
In last year’s Asian Games in Guangzhou, China, India won nine medals - two gold, three silver and four bronze, while in the preceding Commonwealth Games in Delhi, the tally was three gold and four bronze medals.
Later, explaining why only the jabs and not the more attractive upper cuts or hooks gained points, Raja told the reporters that the five ring-side judges wanted to play safe in order not to be penalised for excess scoring.
“The straight punches can be seen clearly by all but the same is not the case with the hook or upper cut and judges did not press the computer button even if they had seen such blows as they were not sure whether fellow-judges too had seen them.
“If the scoring of one judge varied vastly from the others he could earn caution, warning or even suspension from the world boxing authorities,” he revealed.
Raja, however, cautioned that once again the system of scoring has been changed by the international body and the need of the hour ahead of the AIBA World Championships, commencing on September 26 in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, is another change of strategy.
“The scoring system has been changed after 10 years. We caught on the intricacies of the earlier one quite early and benefited for six years. AIBA felt that the old beauty of boxing needs to be revived and has again changed the scoring system,” he said.
The new scoring system does not require the judges to press the button simultaneously within one second to be recorded as an accepted point. This implies there is no more accepted score based on three judges pressing within 1 second.
The revised scoring system only considers individual scores of all the five judges. Each judge can independently press the button for as many number of legitimate scoring blows that he has seen from his position. If he sees a combination of three punches landing correctly as scoring blows, he can press the button three times.
In the old system, probably only one point would have been accepted by the combination of three judges pressing within one second.
According to Raja, the Indian boxers and coaches would need to adapt to the new system quickly and the Baku Championships, a major qualifying event for the London Games, would give an idea about their preparedness.
Looking ahead to the second edition of the World Series Boxing, Raja said those who took part in this professional series would become tougher.
“This is professional boxing within the ambit of international amateur boxing. Those who complete 34 years of age cannot participate in amateur boxing. The WSB has filled this gap and they now have something to look forward to.
“Boxing has been a poor man’s sport. The WSB provides an avenue for boxers to earn good money. The Indian boxers selected for WSB would be automatically included in national camps as they would be toughened by having to fight five rounds,” said Raja.
TransStadia has bought one of the Indian franchisees in WSB and its MD and CEO Udit Seth said the company was confident of breaking even after five years.
“Revenues from television broadcaster (yet to be finalised), sponsorships and gate receipts form the major thrust of the franchise’s revenue model,” Seth informed.