Haryana boxers enter ring for Assam, J&K, Bihar...

As Asian Boxing Championship silver medalist Balwinder Singh Beniwal made his way into the ring at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Stadium here earlier this week, the 22-year-old from Bhiwani, Haryana, got loud cheers from the stands — from the Assam team.

Balwinder, who is representing Assam in the 69-kg category at the ongoing national boxing championship here, is just one of about 25 boxers from Haryana — including some big names — being fielded by other states. The 2009 World Junior Championship silver medalist, Sandeep Bhatti, represents Tripura. Vikas Khatri, a former world junior bronze medalist, represents Jammu and Kashmir. Other teams like Manipur, Sikkim, Mizoram, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar also have two or more boxers from Haryana.

While Haryana can lay claim to being India's boxing hub with the international success of its boxers like Olympic medallist Vijender Singh, there is fierce competition for slots from the state. Moreover, with Haryana allowing just one boxer for each weight category, several aspirants are forced to look elsewhere if they want to compete at the nationals.

"Last time, I missed out because there was just one spot available in the Haryana team. This year, I got an offer to play for Assam and I had to go for it as I did not want to miss the nationals," said Balwinder. There are some, like Mukesh Kumar, a national medalist last year, who haven't made it to Hyderabad for want of a team.

The numbers are impressive. At the Haryana State Boxing Championship this year, 283 boxers took part in 10 categories.

"Before Beijing, there were one or two good boxers in each category, but that has changed now. This year, 35 boxers took part in the 69 kg category of the Haryana state championship, and that was the highest in recent years. The sub-junior state championship saw 696 boxers. The national camp only has 44 spots and everybody wants to be a part of it," said Akhil Kumar, gold medallist at the 2006 CWG.

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