The ‘consistent absence of a boxing federation’ in India had its first major casualty with the country’s women boxers putting up a hugely disappointing performance at the 9th AIBA World Championship in Astana, Kazakhstan. The world championship is always the most watched event as there is a lot of stake for boxers across the globe, but this time around this event had ‘extra importance’ as there were Olympic berths up for grabs.
Indian boxing fans’ eyes were on three boxers – MC Mary Kom (51-kg), Laishram Sarita Devi (60-kg) and Pooja Rani (75-kg) – all these were boxing in weight categories where Olympic spots were on offer. What is frustrating about these boxers is that none of them even came close to sealing an Olympic or at least reached the business end of the tournament.
So much was expected from Mary Kom, who made a good beginning winning her first round bout only to send the country in a state of extreme sadness with her exit in the next round losing to a German opponent. Her state-mate Laishram Sarita Devi could not even go past her first round bout against a Belarusian opponent – Pooja Rani (75-kg) did give us some hope by entering the last eight stage only to falter there.
Forget the Olympic aspirations being crushed, even the likes of Saweety Boora (81-kg) and L Sarjubala Devi (45-48-kg)– both silver medalists in the 2014 world championship – were shown the tournament exit door in the quarterfinal stage. Nikhat Zareen (54-kg) did win two bouts and like Seema Punia (81+-kg) bowed out in the last eight stage. Pavitra (64-kg) and Meena Kumari (69-kg) came a cropper crashing out in the first round.
So what explains the poor performance of our women boxers, who have been consistently winning medals at the world championships? For a nation that has never returned empty-handed from this event, it looked in danger of not winning a medal in Astana, but Sonia Lather assured one by reaching the semifinals in the 57-kg category. The lack of urgency on the part of boxing stakeholders to have a federation in place is clearly responsible for our women boxers’ poor showing in the world championships.
Just having series of sustained training camps is not enough as our boxers were deprived of vital international exposure. The quality of sparring partners in each weight category is also crucial as merely slogging at national camps is never going to be enough. This is where our boxers cannot be faulted – in fact, they have been faring well in whatever international competitions they participate in last few years when the federation logjam was going on.
One just hopes that the stalemate regarding having a federation in place does not hurt the Olympic aspirations of our men boxers or are we going to have one boxing representative (both men and women combined) at the Rio Olympics? If we indeed have just Shiva Thapa at Rio, it will be a sad thing for Indian boxing!