Boxing takes a hit

Potential Market. That's how an International Amateur Boxing Association (AIBA) 's communication labelled the Indian boxing scene ahead of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Two years later, things could not have been more different as the international body's provisional suspension of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) comes as a momentum arrester.

The immediate reason for the ban was the possibility of manipulation in the recent IABF elections. But it could well be the Indian body's inability to tap in on a growing market that might have caused the rift. In 2010, Indian franchise owners Videocon pulled out before the start of the first season of AIBA's much talked about World Series of Boxing, an event marketed by IMG. Indian Boxing federation had signed a three-year contract with Percept Marketing earlier, and the clash of interest saw top boxers like Vijender stay away. Videocon, having promising to invest more than 1,000 crores, followed suit. Things only got worse as Trans Stadia, who later picked up the Indian franchise, also reneged on its contract early this year. The WSB will not feature an Indian team in its third season.

If the AIBA ban is in place until March 2013, which is when boxers will be drafted for the first season of the upcoming AIBA Professional Boxing (APB) program, then it will be a considerable blow for Indian boxers. AIBA plans to acclimatise the boxers in time for Rio 2016 to its recent rule changes (boxers will compete without headgear in more rounds of shorter duration) primarily through the WSB and APB. Now it looks like Indian boxers will sit out of both events, at least in the near future.

The only events that remain open to Indian boxers will now be next year's Asian Boxing Championships and a few other continental championships. With only these sporadic affairs available for them to earn ranking points and more importantly, acquaint themselves with the new rules, Indian boxing might take longer to translate the potential AIBA talked about into performance.

Nitin is a principal correspondent based in Chandigarh.

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