Indian boxers no longer start underdogs against the mighty Kazakhs and Uzebks, High-Performance Director Santiago Nieva said Friday, describing the 13-medal haul at the Asian Championships a “truly amazing” show that would be followed not by a break but a busy training schedule. India fetched two gold, four silver and seven bronze medals in the tournament, held simultaneously for men and women. The men picked up seven medals, including one gold, while the women managed six.
“It is a very, very strong statement that has been made by our boxers. Asia is a strong region in boxing and I am proud of the way we have performed here,” Nieva told PTI from Bangkok after a grueling day in which six Indians — four men and two women — competed. “We cannot be called underdogs anymore and I am asserting that we are going to be very strong at the world championships (in September). The Asian championship is a very good benchmark,” he added.
The gold-medallists for India were Amit Panghal (52kg) and Pooja Rani (81kg). The silver medals came from Deepak Singh (49kg), Kavinder Singh Bisht (56kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg) and Simranjit Kaur (64kg). Shiva Thapa (60kg), Ashish (69kg) and Satish Kumar (+91kg) claimed bronze medals among the men this time. Settling for bronze medals among the women were L Sarita Devi (60kg), Manisha (54kg), Nikhat Zareen (51kg) and Sonia Chahal (57kg).
The rich medal haul notwithstanding, Indian boxers will not have too much time to celebrate. “Just a couple of days’ rest may be. After that the India Open will be there in the last week of May, followed by training trips to Italy and Ireland. After that, five men’s categories and two women’s categories will compete in the planned Indian Boxing League,” he elaborated. The men’s categories that will compete in the league are 52kg, 57kg, 69kg, and 75kg. Among women, 51kg and 60kg boxers will be participating in the event.
“We have picked these weight categories focussing on the Olympics. So five of the eight Olympic men’s categories and two of the five women’s weight categories have been chosen based on medal prospects and pool available,” said Nieva. And within weeks of this, the boxers will be giving trials, if sought, for the World Championships, the first Olympic qualifying event, in September.
“We have not yet taken a final decision on the trials. We will see how things go before deciding on how to go about it,” he said. Coming back to the Asian Championships, Nieva said one aspect that would need some working after this is “maintaining control”. “We need to do that when the bout is tight. Will power is important but it cannot win you bouts every time. One needs to control proceedings. Of course, easier said than done but no harm in giving it your best shot,” he said. “We are exceptionally good in smaller weights and I am glad to see the performance in higher weights also improving quite a bit,” he added.