New talent to the fore as competition turns intenseSome keen competition and good boxing skills were witnessed during the 53rd Senior National Boxing Championship for men in Hyderabad. The meet assumed added significance since the national federation had decided to select the best boxers from the meet and groom them for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The meet was also a run up to the World Military Games that are scheduled to be held in Hyderabad later this year.With the cream of Indian boxing in action it was not surprising that the level of the competition was intense and the incentives such as the prospect of taking part in an invitational meet in Germany soon, motivated them to excel themselves.Among those who caught the eye were pugilists from Services, Railways, Punjab, All India Police, Steel Plants and Assam Rifles. On the final day one of the best bouts was seen in the heavyweight division where Manpreet Singh of Services staved off the challenge from Ajay Kumar of Railways to take the title. This crucial win by Manpreet also helped Services clinch the overall championship. Railways took the second spot.The championship gave several newcomers a chance to display their talent and the federation will now have a wider choice when selecting boxers to represent the country in international events.But perhaps one of the main challenges that Indian boxers and their trainers and coaches will have to face in the near future could arise from the fact that the sport has introduced new aspects to make it safer, more attractive and more transparent. Changes in equipment, scoring methods, the duration of the bouts and other aspects need to be quickly assimilated and understood by the boxers as well as their coaches and only those who can adjust to the latest methods will be able to survive and flourish in the sport.The task before the federation and coaches therefore is to focus on what is required and groom the boxers accordingly. Wrong advice from the coaches, wrong tactics during the bouts, and a headstrong approach to training could do immense harm to a sport that has just begun to provide medals for the country in the international arenas. Col. Muralidhar Raja, secretary general of AIBF, said that this National meet in Hyderabad is significant since the Federation will identify a pool of boxers who could be medal prospects in international meets. The federation is keen to make optimum use of the facilities and encouragement provided by the government and groom the best talent from among the present lot for the next twelve months.
ABHIJIT SEN GUPTA