The boxers have been called to the domestic fold for the first time since their failed Olympic campaign in Tokyo in July-August where none of them could bag a medal, with super heavyweight boxer Satish Kumar (+91kg) being the lone quarterfinalist. The other three who participated in Tokyo included Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg) and Ashish Kumar (75kg).
During this period, all five boxers missed the men’s World Championships in Serbia’s Belgrade and one-off national camp in Patiala between December 11 and 24 due to their non-participation in the senior Nationals in Bellary in September last year. Since the men’s Nationals was planned just a month after the Tokyo Games, the boxers were either busy attending felicitation functions organised by their respective employers or nursing injuries.
When the Sports Authority of India (SAI) announced the dates for the year’s first national boxing coaching camp for the elite men from January 3 to March 14 in NIS, it raised quite a few eyebrows after the names of all five Tokyo-returned pugilists didn’t find a mention in the list. The names for 79 campers (52 athletes and 27 coaching & support staff personnel) were proposed by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) for a 71-day camp. Being an important calendar year with the Commonwealth, Asian Games and World Championships lined up, many saw it as an attempt on the BFI’s part to keep these boxers out of the national set-up.
However, BFI secretary general Hemanta Kalita informed TOI on Tuesday that the names of these boxers have been included in the camp and later the SAI also came out with a media release. “Their (Amit, Manish, Vikas, Ashish and Satish) names have been included in the camp from today itself and the same has been communicated to the SAI. We had the BFI’s Executive Council (EC) meeting yesterday where it was unanimously decided to include their names. The total number of athletes in the camp has gone up to 57 now.”
Asked why it wasn’t done earlier, Kalita explained: “Previously, we had an EC meeting where everyone unanimously decided to make the Nationals (Bellary, September) participation mandatory for all. It’s an important event in the BFI’s calendar. Those winning the gold and silver will be included in the camp. Since, all these boxers didn’t participate, we excluded their names from the camp. Now that we have allowed everyone to join the camp, it will be mandatory on their part to participate in the next National championships.”
Kalita also informed that the six-time world champion woman boxer, MC Mary Kom, has also decided to join the national camp in Delhi. “Mary Kom will report to the camp at the IGI Delhi. All four women boxers who competed in Tokyo namely Lovlina Borgohain, Simranjit Kaur and Pooja Rani Bohra will be there.”
Earlier, speaking to TOI on Monday, reigning Asian Games champion Panghal had doubted the BFI’s intentions behind leaving them out from the camp. “I don’t know why they aren’t including my name in the camp. I am fit and ready to join my teammates in Patiala. I fail to understand that despite being part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme’s (TOPS) core group and counted among the country’s best boxers, the federation has chosen to keep me out of the camp. Just because of one bad performance (in Tokyo) doesn’t mean that I have suddenly become unworthy.”