With a perfect blend of youth and experience there were heady expectations on the 12 strong Indian boxing squad that travelled to the recently concluded Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia and it’s fair to say those expectations were definitely met with the 3 golds, 3 silvers and 3 bronze medals far and away eclipsing the 4 silvers and a bronze gained 4 years ago in Glasgow in 2014.
Of course the main focus should be on the boxers but the coaching staff deserve massive praise for all their hard work behind the scenes and the BFI also deserved huge credit for providing a stable environment and numerous opportunities for the fighters to compete in high level tournaments around the world since their inception in late 2016.
With Mary Kom victorious in the light flyweight division and completing the set of winning a medal at every major tournament, it’s hard to know what to say what hasn’t already been said about not only a true icon of women’s boxing but someone who has inspired millions of young girls in her homeland. Even at 35-years-old she has shown she’s still able to compete at the top level and if she still possesses the hunger, passion and desire and her body allows her there’s no reason why she can’t try and win another Olympic medal in Tokyo.
The number of women’s weight categories doubled from 3 to 6 from the last edition of the Commonwealths but no definitive plans have been announced to extend this to the Olympics as of now. The other 3 female boxers Pinki Rani, Sarita Devi and Lovina Borglhain will have been disappointed to not come away with a medal and with a burgeoning pipeline of talent coming through as was seen by the 7 golds claimed at last year’s world Youth championships in Guwahati, competition for places will be fierce over the next few years.
The other 3 experienced members of the team, Vikas Krishan, Satish Kumar and Manoj Kumar all performed admirably with Krishan scalping middleweight top spot, Satish taking super heavyweight silver and Manoj grabbing Bronze at welterweight.
Perhaps the most pleasing element from the Gold Coast was the outstanding displays of the 5 youngsters in Amit, Gaurav Solanki, Hussamuddin Mohammad, Manish Kaushik and Naman Tanwar. All these 5 are under 25-years-old and represent a bright future for Indian boxing going forward. Solanki took gold in the flyweight division but had to show real grit and determination in his semi-final contest against Sri Lanka’s M Vidanalange Ishan Bandara. He then boxed superbly in the final against experience campaigner Brendan Irvine of Northern Ireland.
Amit proved his world class credentials in 2017, pushing outstanding Uzbek Hasanboy Dusmatov all the way in their 2 meetings at the Asian and world championships. The light flyweight southpaw had to settle for silver having been outhustled by England’s Galal Yafai but still expect Amit to be in the reckoning for medals at future world events especially if he can work on his inside game and using the jab more to keep fighters at range.
Mohammad simply came up against one of the best in the world in England’s Peter McGrail in his bantamweight semi but the 24-year-old should use this as a real building block for future success.
Having captured Bronze at the 2016 world Youth championships, Tanwar came in with real pedigree and should be fairly satisfied with his Bronze medal and should only excel given more top flite bouts. The 19-year-old has real swagger and is a born entertainer but given the likes of Vassiliy Levit and Erislandy Savon amongst others are in the heavyweight (91kg) division, defence will need to be a bigger priority at certain stages.
Despite only coming away with silver Manish Kaushik really caught the eye and was undoubtedly the best newcomer at the games. Having defeated world class operator Shiva Thapa twice in recent times there was a major curiosity for those who hadn’t seen him before. The 22-year-old had a tough route to the final but showed his class in overcoming England’s Calum French and gifted Northern Irish youngster James McGivern in the last 8 and last 4 respectively. The gold medal clash against Australia’s Harry Garside certainly could have gone either way but Kaushik looks like a future star and someone who is capable of winning world and Olympic hardware.
It’s not only the women where there is genuine competition for places as in a number of divisions there is real depth amongst the men with the likes of Sachin Siwach, Kavinder Singh Bisht, Gaurav Bidhuri, Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan not attending the Commonwealths and with this ever increasing pool of available talent all the boxers can only benefit from the high level sparring and poor performances will see fighters lose their place in the team. Finally apart from the WSB where the Indian Tigers still have a solid shot of making the play-offs the other significant tournament in 2018 is the Asian Games which take place in Jakarta in August and if the upward trajectory continues then expect many more medals in major competitions and India can be a powerhouse in AIBA boxing in the next decade.