<p>By the next Olympics in Rio de Janiero in 2016, Vijender Singh will be 31 years old, Akhil Kumar 35 and Suranjoy Singh 30. Though they will have experience on their side, age will have caught up with their reflexes and perhaps it will be time to hand over the baton of Indian boxing to youngsters. The London Olympics gave us a glimpse of the future and boxers who could take on the mantle from Singh and Kumar.
Here are four boxers who will, hopefully, be the face of Indian boxing in coming years:
If there was one athlete who didn’t get a medal but won hearts at Olympics then it was 20-year-old Laishram Devendro Singh. Having reached the quarter finals in London, Singh is seen as the best young boxer in India. “He is extremely quick in the ring and a very fast learner,” says Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu, coach of the men’s boxing team. Singh comes from a family of boxers — his sister Sushila Devi was a national boxing champion — and grew up in Manipur. People might have been surprised by his impressive showing in London, but his coach wasn’t. “He is one for the future and will hopefully achieve a lot in the international arena,” adds Sandhu.
Luck was not on the side of this 19-year-old in London who lost in controversial circumstances. But Sumit Sangwan is not someone who dwells on the past, says Sandhu. “He was really shattered [after the London Olympics] but is a confident young boy.” Sangwan is a tall, strappy boxer who is extremely agile in the ring for someone his size. The boxer from Punjab is supported by the Mittal Champions’ Trust and shot into limelight after winning a gold medal at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. He doesn’t have much experience in the international arena and competes in the 81-kg category.
Nineteen-year-old Thapa was the youngest Indian boxer to have qualified for the Olympics. He lost in the opening round but is still rated as one of the finest boxers in the country. He has a bronze medal to his name at the World Boxing Championships and a silver at the Summer Youth Olympics. Thapa, son of a karate instructor, grew up in Guwahati and was inspired by Mike Tyson to take up boxing. He is supported by Olympic Gold Quest and its COO, Viren Rasquinha, has high hopes of him: “He is an enormous talent.” Thapa replaced Akhil Kumar in the boxing team and has been representing India at the international level since he was 16 years old. He isn’t fazed by anything, adds Rasquinha.
Vikas Krishan Yadav
His moment of glory was winning gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games when as an 18-year-old he fought a great bout to beat his Chinese opponent. Yadav, who hails from Hisar, has been boxing since the age of 11 and has already won gold medals at the Asian Youth Championship as well as at the Asian Games in Guangzhou. Yadav competes in the 60-kg category and is supported by Mittal Champions’ Trust, who took him on board as a 17-year-old. Yadav is considered the best boxer to have come out of the Bhiwani Boxing Club after Vijender Singh. He has big boots to fill but has shown that he has the potential to compete with the best in the world.