Boxing has been India’s go to sport in the Olympics for the past two editions. There has been a steady increase in the size of boxing contingent, from four in 2004 Athens, to Five in 2008 Beijing and as many as eight in the 2012 London edition. The increasing size has helped India to win two bronze medals one in the 2008 Beijing Olympics courtesy Vijender Singh and another by Mary Kom in the last Olympics. One would naturally expect India to further strengthen on its potential this year and send a bigger contingent with more medal hopefuls but this has not been the case. This year only three boxers have been able to make the cut for the Rio Olympics.
This is also nothing short of an achievement given the state of boxing in India for the past few years. The boxing federation, the body responsible for promotion and development of Boxing has been banned by AIBA for three years now. Boxers are completely dependent on ad-hoc committees and private initiatives for training preparation. Add to that Vijender Singh turning pro and Mary Kom failing to make the cut, the boxing circuit in India is in its darkest phase, these three boxers are the only ray of hope. The three boxers who will be representing India at Rio 2016 are:
Among the three, he was first person to qualify for Rio. He did it in March this year by finishing in the bronze medal position in the Asian Qualifiers. Now 22 years old, he has already represented India at the London Olympics of 2012. This earned him the honor of being the youngest Indian boxer to qualify. Though he was eliminated from the first round then his game has improved since.
Currently he ranked 6th in the bantamweight (56kg) category in the AIBA Men’s World Ranking and has the right potential of being a medal winner for India.
Vikas Krishan Yadav
He is a former Asian Champion having won the gold in 2010 Asian Games. He was eliminated from the preliminary round 2012 London Olympics after an overruling by AIBA which overturned his win to a loss due to foul play. He took an year off post that and came back to win a bronze at the 2014 Asian Games held in Incheon, South Korea.
Vikas competes in the 75 kg category and has been a consistent performer in the national as well as international circuit. He failed to qualify in the Asian qualifiers and confirmed his Olympic berth in June in the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Qualifying Tournament. At present he is ranked 6th in the AIBA Men’s Middleweight category.
Manoj Kumar completes the Indian contingent of Boxing for Rio 2016. He is a former Commonwealth Champion having won Gold in the 2010 edition. He has been on the boxing circuit for more years than the other two and has been punching his way in the light welterweight(64 kgs) category. At the London Olympics he as many regard was a victim of some dubious decisions by the judges what seemed to a bias for local boy Great Britain’s Tom Stalker which led to his elimination from the round of 16.
Manoj like Vikas, qualified for the Olympics by reaching the semi-finals of the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Qualifying Tournament in June this year. Unlike his fellow boxers he is ranked quite low in the AIBA Men’s 64kg category at number 42. But that doesn’t discount the fact that he does provide a good challenge and given what happened to him in the last Olympics he will surely be looking for some retribution.
One would hope that these three will rise to the occasion and help revive the dwindling boxing fortunes of India. A medal in boxing at Rio could come in handy.