Interview: "New boxing league likely to start in June 2018," says BFI President Ajay Singh
Boxing in India, in the last few years, has been in the limelight more for the wrong reasons than right. Just three pugilists from the nation took part in the Rio Olympics last year in comparison to eight in London in 2012, quite a steep decline in four years.
However, things have been on the up in the last few months, with our boxers recording podium finishes at tournaments across the world and a newfound stability at the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), which is now working hard to bring the sport back on track in the country.
Most recently, Gaurav Bidhuri won a bronze medal at the World Championships in August this year and on Wednesday, MC Mary Kom won gold at the Asian Boxing Championships, her fifth at the event, as India signed off with a total of seven medals from the competition.
Much of the credit for the upsurge must go to Ajay Singh, who took over the reins as BFI President in September 2016. Singh, who is also the chairman and marketing director of Spicejet Airlines, spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview and talked about the legend that is Mary Kom, the BFI's future plans and the preparation for the upcoming Commonwealth and Asian Games. Here are a few excerpts!
Q) To begin with, what are your thoughts on Mary Kom's historic victory? How big of an inspiration is she for other sportspersons?
A) Her achievements are absolutely incredible. To be at this level and win gold medals at the age of 34 is truly inspiring. Her success makes us really happy and we are delighted for her.
Not only for athletes, she is an icon for all Indians!
Q) Apart from Mary Kom's gold, six other boxers won medals as well at the Asian Championships. How would you rate the overall performance?
A) I think these results bode very well for the future and show that we are headed in the right direction. We had a total of 10 participants, out of whom seven came back with medals. So, it was a good result overall.
Boxing has been under a lot of turmoil for a while and our focus is getting back on track. We are focusing on training the boxers in the best way possible and getting the right coaches. Results will follow hopefully, too.
Q) Despite the one medal at the World Championships, it was a good showing by India's boxers. Would you say that your objectives were met from the competition?
A) Absolutely! Eight boxers in all qualified for the World Championships and six of them reached the quarterfinals stage. So we can say it was a creditable showing.
Q) India will me hosting the Youth Women's World Championships later this year in Guwahati. How big a step forward do you think it is for Indian boxing?
A) It is the first time in history that India will be hosting an event of such stature, so it is certainly a huge step forward. We are preparing a strong team for the competition.
These boxers are for the future and we will be keeping an eye on them for the Tokyo Olympics. The competition will be important for them as well as for Indian officials and referees, who will also gain crucial experience.
Q) You had earlier spoken about starting an Indian Boxing League in the near future. What is the tentative timeline for the event?
A) Yes, we are close to finalizing it and you can expect an announcement soon. Most probably, it will take place in June next year.
Q) 2018 will be an extremely important year with the Commonwealth and Asian Games coming up. How is the prepartion going on for them?
Preparations are going on in full swing. Our aim is to maximize the medal haul and we are looking forward to selecting our best teams for the event.
We have many top boxers but in each category, we have strong bench strength as well. So the competition is going to be really tough!