The growing popularity of boxing is one of the brightest spots in the future of Indian sport.
Even if boxing has never gained mass popularity in India, our boxers have performed well on the world stage. From Mohammad Ali Qamar winning a gold medal at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester to Mary Kom, the first Indian woman to clinch a gold medal at the Asian Games in 2014 at Incheon, South Korea, the list is growing.Kom, the subject of a popular film, is also a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion and the only woman boxer in the world to have won a medal in each of the six world championships.
One among the many such notable boxers is Vijender Singh who won a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games and at the 2008 Olympic Games at Beijing, making him the first Indian boxer to win a medal in the Olympics. He was also ranked World number 1 in the middle weight (75 kg) category class in 2009. After turning professional in 2015, he has won 7 fights by knockout and 3 by decision but hasn’t lost a single one.
At the recent Asian Games in Indonesia, Amit Panghal and Vikas Krishan Yadav won a gold and bronze respectively. The 2018 Commonwealth Games saw a notable number of Indian boxers winning such as Gaurav Solanki, Vikas Krishan Yadav, Amit Panghal, Manish Kaushik, Satish Kumar, Naman Tanwar, Hussamuddin Mohammed and Manoj Kumar. Judging by the number of recent champions, boxing looks to have a promising future in the country.
The sport is seeing a slow rise, Raghava Rajguru a Bangalore-based boxing coach points out. “People are looking at new ways to stay fit because lifting weights in the gym seems to be very boring and they tend to lose interest quickly. Boxing and other martial arts bring new challenges and they get to do something different every day. They also learn for self-defense and to protect their loved ones and not just compete to win,” he says.
In a particularly telling instance, Tejas, a teenager affected by autism, was advised to take up boxing to help develop his motor skills, strength, reflexes and especially,to build confidence. In just four to five months the results were spectacular. His parents are thrilled at how learning the sport has changed him. He now interacts with people and is becomingmore independent,even doing simple chores around the house. That’s the transformative power of learning to box.
In the history of boxing, nobody has had a bigger impact than Muhammad Ali. His name is now synonymous with the sport,but he has come to be known as the ultimate athlete, one who continues to inspire people to this day. From becoming a world champion at the age of 22 to being ranked as the greatest heavyweight boxer of all time, he took the sport to all corners of the world.
India wasn’t left behind in recognizing the sport and Ali as well. In 1980 Ali paid a visit to India at the behest of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to participate in exhibition matches in Delhi, Bombay and Chennai. On January 27, 1980 Ali sparred with Kaur Singh, the only Indian to ever spar or fight with Ali. More than 50,000 people attended the four-round match. Kaur Singh was one of the first Olympic boxers to represent India and, at the peak of his career, had won a gold medal in the men’s heavyweight category at the 1982 Asian Games at New Delhi.
That Bollywood has chosen to showcase the sport in films like Mukkabaaz, showing the difficulties faced by an Indian boxer, and Mary Kom, the biopic is a good indication that the sport is gaining the recognition it so rightly deserves.
- MMA and boxing enthusiast, guitarist, watch collector, stylist, automobile enthusiast, public speaker, trainer, and amateur artiste.