Does Boxing need a cricket mindset to become a popular sport in India?

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Image Courtesy: Getty/iStockphoto
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India lives and breathes cricket. From the fans of the national team ranging from young to old to the loyal followers of the domestic contingent of the sport, and now the ever booming fanbase of the blockbuster Indian Premier League that has even garnered supporters outside the land of the Men in Blue, the craze surrounding the ‘Gentleman’s Game’ in India knows no boundary.

The sport of cricket births both players and fans in abundance in the country. On one hand, there are cricket academies you can find in every corner of the country, ready to scout for local talents and future potential international players. Moreover, the cherry on top is the social media exposure, which brings in many nascent followers of the sport and something that even ISL and PKL have picked up to reach out to the online populace.

Indian Boxing: A sport with heritage, not so much recognition

While cricket’s popularity in India has always been sky-high and goes higher as the days pass, the same has not been the case for other sports and the elephant in the room is boxing.

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Although the sport significantly lacks a fan following, boxing does have a pedigree in India. Dial the clock back to 2008, Vijender Singh staggered the hierarchy with clinching a bronze medal at the glorious platform of the Olympics, marking India’s first medal in the sport. Four years later, the iconic MC Mary Kom proved her worth with another bronze in London.

Aside from the Olympic Games, the Indian pugilists have clinched numerous titles across the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, and there have been regular national events being held across the country.

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Prominent names such as Amit Panghal, Nikhat Zareen, Lovlina Borgohain, Manoj Kumar, Mohammed Ali Qamar, Vikas Krishan, Simranjit Kaur and many more have been rising through the ranks with the gloves on their hands.

All that being said, Indian boxing has still failed to punch above into the international boxing scene. It all goes back to one thing- the functioning mindset behind the sport.

Cricket succeded in its popularity in India and continues to hold onto it, because of the minds that work behind the sport, and the sportspersons. The same mindset, when applied to something like boxing, is expected to click.

The task lies on the governing body in the country, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), who now have an opportunity to put a cricketing mind on the helm.

A cricketing mindset ready to set foot in boxing: former MCA president Ashish Shelar

Ashish Shelar, the former president of the Mumbai unit of BJP has previously served as the president of the Mumbai Cricket Association is slated to partake in the upcoming BFI election, to contend for the spot of the president of the federation, currently being held by Ajay Singh, the owner of SpiceJet.

Coming off from the cricket scene, Ashish Shelar ticks all the right boxes for the betterment of boxing in the country and himself expressed his enthusiasm, as well as having tasted success in managing cricket.

On the other hand, under Ajay Singh’s tenure, BFI’s path has not been smooth. Back in May, BFI was accused of financial misconduct, not paying due fees as well as mishandling of contracts by none other than The International Boxing Association (AIBA) and even imposed a$500,000 penalty for “dishonouring the contract.”

Ajay Singh, the current BFI president has been becoming unfavourable. (Image Courtesy: IOA)

In addition to that, there have been allegations from other federations that BFI is knee-deep in financial deficit, speculated to be in the region of 7 to 8 crore Rupees.

The entire situation raised many eyebrows at the federation as well as Ajay Singh, who since then has been losing support from the hierarchy, including Mr Jay Kowli, the secretary-general of BFI who has backed Shelar for the top spot.

Ex-MCA chief Ashish Shelar has the backing from the BFI hierarchy for the president’s seat. (Image Courtesy: PTI/BL SONI)

While all was going in the right direction for Mr Shelar as he was eyeing the 18th December elections, Ajay Singh slammed an ‘indefinite postponement’ on the same, citing the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason.

Following the announcement, the current BFI prez has received backlash, especially from Shelar’s supporters themselves, who claim the SpiceJet owner is afraid to lose his tenure.

Former MCA president vs the owner of Spicejet, the choice is obvious

With the elections pushed back without a date, the weight on Ajay Singh increases. The mind that runs an airline has not sprung much prosperity in Indian boxing, while expectations are an all-time high on the mind that has tasted triumph in the most popular sport in the country.

To see Ashish Shelar at the helm of BFI is the wish of many. Unfortunately, the wish has now turned into a test of patience with no confirmed date of the postponed elections. However, with Shelar becoming the BFI President, the small but dedicated boxing fans of India may finally get what they have desired for long.

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