In 2008 when a little-known athlete Vijender Singh from Bhiwani, Haryana won a bronze medal for India at the Beijing Olympics, boxing shot into limelight and captured the imagination of numerous Indians. Alongside, the fame that Singh earned also raised hopes of several young Indian boxers for making it big.
Knock out punch
Fast forward to the 2012 London Olympics — India will be sending a seven-member team qualified for the mega sport event, and 18-year-old Shiv Thapa being the youngest Indian boxer ever qualified for the Olympics. Jay Kowli, President of the Maharashtra Boxing Association who is also boxer, feels the recognition to the field goes back in 1998 when boxer Dingko Singh won a gold medal at the Bangkok Asian Games. “India had good boxers even before Singh. But thanks to the television, where his final and semi finals were telecasted that boxing caught attention of the masses. People realised that it is not just a game for strong men from the north but involves a lot of technique and intellect,” says Kowli. He feels that the good performance of Indian boxers at the following Commonwealth Games and finally, Vijay’s performance at the Olympics brought in a new wave.
Maharashtra, especially Mumbai too has several boxing enthusiasts. Kowli says the Inter-collegiate Boxing Championship in the city has been happening for almost 80 years now, and is one of the oldest in the country. “Every sport has its ups and downs and just because Maharashtra boxers haven’t qualified for the Olympics does not mean that we don’t have good boxers. We have several talented youngsters, but they are all pursuing Law or management studies as being a city, people are not interested in securing a job in Railways or the Army by going for boxing,” he says when asked about Mumbai’s contribution. The government too is quite helpful, allotting nearly 13 crores to the sport last year, adds Kowli. The city is home to over 30 boxing academies and five boxing rings; at the Sports Authority of India in Kandivali, the Indian Navy boxing ring at Malad, the Kalina Campus of the Mumbai University, Swatantra Veer Savarkar Smarak in Shivaji Park and at Nagpada in south-central Mumbai.
Knock out! Sign up for a boxing session this summer
> At: Ruia College Academy, Matunga (CR).
> At: Savarkar Smarak, Shivaji Park, Dadar.
> At: KD Boxing Academy, Kalina Campus. Call: 9892377889
>At: Prabodhankar Thackeray, Vile Parle (E). Call: 9833431274
>At SAI Sport Complex, Kandivali (E). Call: 8080333326