Cricket + Football + a little F1 + a pinch of tennis (only when Sharapova is playing) = Sports
The above equation held true for me for the last fifteen years of my life. Being an Indian, I pretty much follow the old cola commercial that said eat, sleep and drink cricket. Being a gooner, I followed Arsenal religiously, F1 grabbed my attention because every guy wants to master a snazzy and fast car and Sharapova, well I don’t think I need to elucidate that!
Being a quizzer, I was supposed to know a little about Olympic sports and I mainly concentrated on a few big names who actually won something and not merely participated. Though am not to proud of it, I didn’t have much knowledge about India’s Olympic exploits, except for Dhyan Chand, Abhinav Bindra and Karnam Malleswari. It was because we hardly won anything and never looked like even competing. So, whether it be our National Sport or wresting or kabaddi – didn’t know, didn’t care.
If that was my attitude towards Olympics sport, you can very well imagine what Boxing meant to me. Yes, for me boxing meant great quotes from Md. Ali for my school essays, a beast called Mike Tyson and of course, Rocky Balboa. However, since the last six months, it has climbed up the favorite sports list and now sits pretty at number three, just behind cricket and football. And no, it’s not because of Vijender Singh.
What got me hooked to this sport has been the sudden influx of quality boxers who are no mere flash in the pans, but are consistent. I don’t rate Badminton highly because there’s none to back up Saina and in tennis, keeping in mind all of Mahesh Bhupathi‘s exploits, still the man named Leander Paes is our best bet.
As the build up to the Olympics reaches its crescendo and we are flooded with prospective medal contenders, we hardly find more than one name in any sport. Be it Deepika Kumari or Saina Nehwal or Sushil Kumar, we don’t really expect more than one medal in any sport except Shooting and Boxing. Even though shooting has two top contenders in Gagan Narang and Ronjan Sodhi (I don’t think Bindra can repeat his performance), it’s boxing that has thrown up quite a few names in the medal contention.
Mary Kom, Vikas Krishan, Shiva Thapa, Manoj Kumar and Vijender Singh (you can’t write off a bronze medalist, can you!) are all good enough to get a medal. Though Vijender Singh is in contention, he isn’t our best bet to get to the podium. We have a fleet of young pugilists who are lining up to punch their way through to that medal tally. And it’s not only that – boxing, apart from cricket, has been the only sport that has thrown up young talent in India. Thanks to the Haryana Government, the facilities have improved and there is a proper boxing culture that’s helping the likes of the Thapas and the Suronjoy Singhs not only compete at the highest level, but also win.
If you track the lead-up tournaments to the Olympics, except Saina Nehwal and Deepika Kumari, no one has made the kind of impact that you would like your Olympians to make. But the Indian boxing team has landed the upper cuts and hooks perfectly and have made the most of the pre-Olympic preparations and now has reached London with its biggest contingent ever.
Still, Olympics is the biggest sporting arena and even the biggest stars falter; boxing may not fetch us the number of medals we’re counting. But it’s a sport that gives us hope as it keeps producing new and skilled boxers who can compete even with the best. You can’t produce a Md. Ali. Even Mike Tyson is a “once in a century” product. But Indian boxing looks well on course and who knows, we may come up with a Floyd Mayweather in the near future.
Again, that’s when we go pro. But as of now, the Indian boxers look all set to slip in the jab at the London Games.