Talent spotting in the ring

Assistant national coach Jaidev Bisht will use upcoming nationals to spot potential stars.

The boxing hall at the Karnail Stadium is abuzz with action on Tuesday evening. Boxers skip, check weight, others punch the heavybag, while still others shadow box. They stop only when they are called to the ring for a sparring session. The contenders for each weight category begin the two minute rounds. When one boxer appears weaker he is replaced by another in that weight category and the rounds continue.

Watching closely and marking score, is Jaidev Bisht. Senior coach of the Railways boxing team and assistant coach of the national team, his job is to pick players who will represent the side for the upcoming Nationals in Hyderabad.

In between scoring blows, Bisht, 46, gives advice to the boxers in the ring. "Short punches, short punches," he shouts. When one light heavyweight uses his feet to trick his opponent into overshooting and lands a combination, the praise is forthcoming even as he continues to scribble in his notebook. Ahead of the Championships, Bisht is confident.

"We have been winning the event for the last five years and hopefully we can win it this time as well," he says. The Railways squad will be formidable despite the absence of Olympian Manoj Kumar, who is recovering from a cough and an injury to his hand. But Bisht also reckons that the Nationals will be depleted of talent.

"Unfortunately many of the best boxers in the country don't take part in these games. Some of them like Manoj Kumar have injuries but there are others who feel they are vulnerable and so chose to sit out. But these games are very important. The name of national champion is still prized."

Indeed while many of his trainees from the senior camp are expected to skip the tournament, Bisht acknowledges that he doesn't enjoy that privilege. "I can't switch off. While I will be hoping that our boxers win the title this year as well, I will have to keep my eyes open on who all are playing well. Now that Olympics are over, we need to prepare a team keeping next four years in mind. While there are several players who we think will be around for Rio, we are expecting many youngsters to make their mark," he says.

... contd.

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