Pune: World Championships bronze medal winner Gaurav Bidhuri (56kg), Commonwealth Games medallists Naman Tanwar (91kg), Manish Kaushik (60kg), former youth champion Sachin Siwach (52kg) will be the biggest names among a 360-member contingent in the men’s Nationals boxing tournament in Pune.
Fresh from winning the Arjuna Award this year, Satish Kumar’s (+91kg) performances will also be keenly observed as the countdown to Tokyo 2020 begins. A place in the national camp, and in the long term, the 2019 World Championships in Sochi will also be key motivating factors for the boxers as they step in the ring.
However, the tournament also lacks a fair amount of stardust with big names such as Vikas Krishan, Manoj Kumar, Shiva Thapa, and Asian Games gold medallist Amit Panghal giving it a miss. All the Asian Games participants have been exempted from participating in the event.
Bragging rights among the state teams will also be one of the central themes at the Army Sports Institute. More than 30 state teams will be in the fray but reigning champions Railways Sports Promotion Board will once again start as favourites. RSPB have Bidhuri and Tanwar in their ranks, and will be hard to beat.
Also fighting for top spot is the Services Sports Control Board. The find of last year’s Nationals –Manish Kaushik and Satish Kumar – are affiliated to SSCB. The duo are top dogs in their respective weight categories.
“It is a big comeback for me after missing out on big events in the last one year. I am going to make it count,” Bidhuri, who was upset at being denied a trial for both the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, told PTI.
The toast of Indian boxing at the moment, Amit (49kg) is a huge loss for SSCB. The Rohtak-born pugilist, following his stunning gold medal finish at Jakarta, will get a free pass into the national camp.
The seasoned Shiva Thapa will have to wait to earn his revenge after skipping the event. The Assamese, a two-time winner, was billed a certain gold medallist last season, only for Manish to pull off a monumental upset in the final.
Vikas, who recently became India’s first three-time Asian Games gold medallist is also unavailable for participation as he gears up to lock horns in the professional circuit. Manoj Kumar, for whom this tournament was a launch-pad to greater things a decade ago, is another addition to the big-name omissions.
There will a lot riding on bantamweight boxer Bidhuri, who had painfully missed out two consecutive big-ticket events in Commonweath Games and Asian Games. Kaushik has an easier field to compete this year, and will have a point to prove to high performance coach Santiago Nieva.
The boxers will be participating under ten weight categories. The semi-final and final bouts are scheduled for November 1 and 2 respectively.