The training-cum-competition trip to Cuba turned out to be rewarding for Indian boxers in more ways than one.
They did not just fetch a rich haul of eight silver and three bronze medals, the 13 boxers also got a chance to interact with three-time Olympic and six-time world champion — the legendary Felix Savon Fabre.
The pugilists who touched down in the capital in the wee hours on Monday morning after spending almost a fortnight in Cuba felt the trip made them psychologically stronger and gave them the confidence of being just as good as any top boxing nation in the world.
“There was a time the word Cuba meant intimidation but not anymore. They seem to be just like any other good boxing nation,” said a beaming national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.
“The combined training helped our boys’ morale. They are a lot more confident,” added India’s Cuban coach Blas Iglesias Fernandes.
Commonwealth champions Amandeep Singh (48kg), Suranjoy Singh (51kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg) and Dinesh Kumar were among those who made the finals of the six-team competition in, which India finished second overall behind the hosts in Havana.
“Training and competing in Cuba is always good ahead of a big event. In this case, it was a build-up for the Commonwealth Games and we have come back mentally tougher after training,” said Commonwealth Games gold medallist Akhil Kumar (57kg).
The medals apart, Indians were also flaunting pictures taken with Savon, who was there at the institute where they were training during the trip, and said the imposing former heavyweight boxer bowled them over with his down to earth persona.
“A man who has been a six-time world champion, a three-time Olympic champion, a living legend was so humble. It was just amazing to spend time with him. He even came with us during the bus journey from Havana to Guantanamo,” said Akhil, who settled for a bronze in the tournament after deciding to give a walkover in the semifinals due to pain in his wrist.
Keywords: Commonwealth Games