Multi-time Olympian boxer Vikas Krishan has urged the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) to strongly consider seeking advice from senior boxers if the Indian boxing scene wants a massive facelift in the coming months.
Just a little over a week post the sudden resignation of India's boxing high performance director Santiago Nieva, Krishan, in an explosive exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, expressed his desire to see the BFI approach senior players for their guidance.
"Boxing Federation of India should be open to talk with senior boxers. They can always ask me or other senior players for suggestions. If they are happy with it, then apply it in their plans, if not, then that is upto them. Even with Santiago, I would give my suggestions, he was happy with that but he never implemented it."
Vikas, who is one of India's most decorated boxers, also drew parallels to how Olympics silver-medallist Shakur Stevenson's training patterns are the gold standard of training, and Santiago's methods were a far cry from where they should have been.
"When I was sparring and training with Shakur Stevenson, people over there would come half hour before the sessions, that is the mindset that needs to be there. They would not look for a small excuse to go home over the weekend or go away to meet their friends or girlfriends. Boxing is their everything, their life and that is the mindset I also have, that was not how Santiago operated, he had very weird methods which did not work with me."
"Santiago had no personal experience, Sweden's boxers haven't even been to the Olympics in 20 years" - Vikas Krishan
India's boxers failed to impress at the Tokyo Olympics, as barring Lovlina Borgohain's bronze medal, none of the others managed to get to the medal rounds.
Although the Indian contingent boasted some big names such as Amit Panghal, MC Mary Kom, Satish Kumar, apart from Krishan himself, the Indians flattered to deceive in the quadrennial event.
Krishan narrowed it down to the lack of chemistry between the puglists and Nieva as a major driving force behind India's dismal show in the global event.
"Santiago didn't have personal experience, nearly nil. He has no medal to show in any major tournament. He comes from Sweden, and in 20 years of boxing, not one boxer has made it to the Olympics. His techiques were weird and I had my doubts about him. I have been boxing for 20 years, I know when something is wrong."
"I even spoke to the BFI president Ajay Kumar and told him that Santiago did not have any experience, and we shouldn't have him only because he is a good person. He did not have any background in boxing, just because he is an international coach, it did not make sense to hand our Indian team under him."
Nieva, who joined the Indian team as head coach in 2017, served for a period of five years until he resigned this May 2022. During this period, India was represented by their highest boxing contingent in the Olympics (Tokyo - 9), apart from the medals at the 2019 Men's World Championships.
However, Krishan explained that Nieva's association with the Indian boxing contingent did not inspire much confidence due to his unusual training methodologies.
"If we were paying him so many thousands of dollars, it was so that he can help us win an Olympics medal. He was not training us the right way, so why to pay him? I didn't want to say it before because he was accompanying us to the ring, but I feel the time is right now."
Krishan, who is in his hometown of Haryana and undergoing rehabiliation to recover from an injury he sustained prior to the Tokyo Olympics, also shed light on how the right chemistry between a boxer and a coach goes a lot way in striking a winning combination.
"When you are boxing, you need to feel the fire inside you, a competitive feeling. If you are not educating boxers the right way, how can you expect them to win anything? I am someone who stands up for what I feel is right and I will make sure people know their mistakes."
"Even with coach Santiago, I made it clear when he was not doing his job right. Every boxer needs to have a good understanding with the coach. I have worked with multiple coaches, I have seen so many differrent styles in terms of mindset and skills."
He also pointed out the difficulty of winning at the Olympics.
"Olympics is a whole different competition, winning Asian Games and other competitions mean nothing in terms of the Olympics because the competition and level of skill needed is a different beast altogether. Even in this Tokyo Olympics, almost all the boxers were comprehensively beaten, that mindset went completely missing."
Although Nieva has vacated his role, the Indian team will continue to train under head coach Narender Rana, who was appointed in the role by the BFI back in November 2021.
Rana, who took over the reigns from CA Kuttappa, comes from a rich background of training many boxers at the Army Sports Institute, and Krishan is confident that the former will do justice to his role at the helm.
The veteran boxer, however, further highlighted the pressing need for the BFI to get in touch with the senior boxers for their inputs on what can help shape the future of Indian boxing in times to come.
"Narender Rana is a really nice person with a lot of experience, he has trained folks in the army. But I will continue to say that if the BFI wants to rise in stature and uplift boxing, they have to talk to senior players. I am always available 24 hours in a day, and so is 2-time Olympian Manoj Kumar and even someone as successful as Vijender Singh is there, but no one asks the senior players for advice."
"Boxing is not an individual sport, you can't go inside the ring and leave it. You have to go through the right trainer, the coach is your partner. You have to have a proper recovery. If someone says boxing is not a team sport, he is a fool, he knows nothing about boxing."
Currently focussing on getting back to prime fitness ahead of the boxing qualifiers next month and training for the Asian Games (postponed to a later date from September 2022), Krishan will be gunning for glory when he gets back to doing what he loves best - packing a punch, and in style.