x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Olympics: Sun shining on Indian boxing

Mary Kom, the 29-year-old Indian mother of two, is one of many emerging pugilists from the country.

Mary Kom starts her Olympic campaign on Sunday with a strong chance to win gold. Anupam Nath / AP Photo
Mary Kom starts her Olympic campaign on Sunday with a strong chance to win gold. Anupam Nath / AP Photo

It is a measure of how far Indian boxing has come that The Economist's Intelligent Life magazine featured Mary Kom on its cover. A mother of two, Kom is a 29-year-old multiple world champion who starts her campaign on Sunday. Despite the presence of Vijender Singh, bronze medallist in the middleweight division at Beijing, in the squad, Kom is widely considered India's best hope of another place on the boxing podium.

As of yesterday afternoon, 75 per cent of the eight-strong team was still standing. Devendro Singh Laishram, the light flyweight, was the most impressive in the last 32, hitting his Honduran opponent with such ferocity that the referee stopped the contest. Jai Bhagwan's performance in the 60kg category against an opponent from the Seychelles was no less eye-catching.

Vijender came through a bout against a tough Kazakh, while Manoj Kumar earned himself a bout against Thomas Stalker, the home favourite, by outpointing Turkmenistan's Serdar Hudayberdiyev 13-7.

What all the performances had in common was confidence. There was a time when an Indian boxer would be overawed by everything from his opponent to the dismal state of his own kit. Now, with financial incentives for success in the ring, that inferiority complex is long gone.

To watch Laishram swagger around the ring was to watch a new generation. The experience of Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu, the coach, and Blas Fernandez, the Cuban who has worked with the boxers since the 1990s, sowed the seeds and India are ready to reap the rewards in London.

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