Interview with Dingko Singh: "Got my IOA official kit after reaching Asiad semifinals"
The sight of Ngangom Dingko Singh outpunching Thailand’s world number 3 Sontaya Wongprates in front of his home fans at the 1998 Bangkok Asiad, is a ‘memorable chapter’ of Indian boxing.
Dingko’s gold medal-winning feat in Bangkok is all the more remarkable because he was not even initially picked in the side for the Asiad but only later made it to the event, thanks to the then IABF president AK Mattoo and SSCB taking up the cudgels for him.
The 37-year-old, who is now the coach of the SAI Imphal after having served in the Indian Navy from 1999-2013, recounts his Bangkok memories and much more in an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda.
Here are the excerpts:
Q You catapulted into stardom when you won the 54kg gold medal at the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. Recall those memories.
As you know I was not originally picked in the side for the Asiad, but only made it a later stage. So I was extra determined to prove a point – I was not really thinking about winning a gold but was keen to make a podium finish – it was a special feeling to win a gold in 54 kg.
Q Tell us why you are not initially picked in the Indian boxing team for the 1998 Bangkok Asiad.
There was a thinking that India does not have medal hopes in the lower weight categories as we have not won too many medals at the Asiad. But the then Indian boxing federation president AK Mattoo took up my case before the IOA and even the Services Sports Control Board supported my case. SSCB even offered to sponsor my travelling, lodging and kit cost. I did not get any kit like t-shirt, tracksuit, equipment, etc from IOA but only get it in Bangkok after I outboxed the Thai world number 3 in the semifinals.
Q You stunned the 1996 Olympic bronze medallist and then world number 3 Sontaya Wongprates of Thailand in front of his home crowd in the semifinals.
I still remember that bout – I was smiling in the bout and enjoying the fight against my Thailand opponent. I was in great form that day and I beat Wongprates 19-14.
Q There was no stopping Dingko in the final – you overwhelmed 1996 Olympic silver medallist and then world number 5 Timur Tulyakov of Uzbekistan.
I was boxing at my best against Timur. I was so lethal in the final that Timur retired. I can never forget that day – the biggest day of my boxing career.
Q Indian boxing is going through a rocky phase – there is no federation in place and no national-level tourneys are being. Your thoughts.
It is really sad to see the current state of affairs. It does not matter who it is – somebody has come forward to run the federation or else Indian boxing will suffer severely in the coming years. I must commend our boxers for consistently faring well on the international circuit despite all the odds stacked against them.
Q The Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) was derecognised in December 2012 – then Boxing India was formed in September 2014 but was derecognised in mid-2015.
I can tell you one thing – Indian boxing has surely gone a few steps back due to the non-existence of a federation. I hope the AIBA-constituted ad-hoc committee will do its best to put a federation in place sooner than later.
Q The 2016 Rio Olympics is just five-six months away – how many boxers do you think will make it to the Olympics?
I believe three women boxers should surely make it to Rio. As for our men boxers, it will be fierce competition due to limited quota places for Asia. I want all our pugilists to make it to the Olympics.
Q How do you assess the trio of Vikas Krishnan, Shiva Thapa and your state-mate Devendro Singh?
All three are very talented. Shiva and Vikas put a lot of thinking into their boxing whereas Devendro needs to work on reading the opponent. Boxing is all about being aggressive and Devendro’s forte is his aggression but he has to channelize his aggression in a better way by learning when to go all out or when not to.
Q Tell us a bit about your family – are you kids into boxing?
My wife is a housewife – I have two kids – my son, who is in class X, is into taekwondo and has won a bronze medal in school, while my daughter is studying in class six.