With seasoned campaigners such as M.C. Mary Kom and Shiva Thapa leading the charge, India will fancy all 10 gold medals up for grabs when the boxing competition gets underway in the 12th South Asian Games in Shillong tomorrow.
India have fielded a star-studded team of seven men and three women — including Olympic, Commonwealth and Asian Games medallists — in 10 weight categories.
The South Asian Games may not offer them much in terms of tough competition but it is certainly a decent build-up before the Indians head to the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualification tournament in Qian’an, China from March 23. So far, none of the Indian boxer has booked an Olympic berth.
The much-celebrated Mary Kom (51kg) will be the cynosure of all eyes in event.
The five-time world champion and London Olympics bronze-medallist is easily among the most successful sporting talent to come out of the North East and the Manipuri will attract fans to the SAI Campus in the North Eastern Hill University on the outskirts of the city.
In her return from an injury layoff following her gold medal win at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, Mary Kom had lost in the semi-finals of an Olympic test event in December last year.
“I’m determined to do well here. It’s such a big event being held in the North East for the first time. It’s a proud moment for all of us and winning here will mean a lot,” the iconic pugilist told PTI after a practice session this morning at the campus.
Another Manipuri boxer who will be keenly watched is L. Sarita Devi (60kg), the Asian Games bronze-medallist, who is also on a comeback trail after completing a one-year ban for an infamous emotional meltdown following her semi-final loss in Incheon.
Pooja Rani (75kg), another Asiad bronze-winner, makes the third member of the women’s squad.
The men’s team is equally star-studded, featuring among others, World Championships bronze-medallist Shiva (56kg), Commonwealth Games silver winners L. Devendro Singh (49kg) and Mandeep Jangra (69kg) and Asian Championships silver-medallist Vikas Krishan (75kg).
The quartet can be considered sure-shot gold contenders in their respective categories.
Shiva and Devendro, in fact, will be the crowd-pullers too given that the former hails from Guwahati and the latter is a Manipuri.
Also there in the team are former national champion Madan Lal (52kg) and World Military Games silver-winner Dheeraj Rangi (60kg).
India have another experienced boxer in Manoj Kumar (64kg), the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and 2012 London Olympics quarterfinalist.
Keywords: boxing, South Asian Games