They are appalled, they are angry and they want accountability to be fixed.
Indian boxing’s biggest names are demanding an all systems reboot to halt the sport’s decline after a medal-less Olympic campaign in Rio and their roadmap goes beyond having the much-delayed national federation.
From the country’s first Olympic medallist in boxing, Vijender Singh, to Commonwealth Games gold-medallists Akhil Kumar and Mohd Ali Qamar to the much-decorated MC Mary Kom, Indian boxing stalwarts stood united in their cry for change.
“There has to be some accountability. First there should be a federation and secondly there should be action against officials and coaches who are responsible for the current state of Indian boxing,” Vijender, who is now playing in the professional circuit, told PTI from London.
“As for the roadmap ahead, the coaching staff should be overhauled. What’s the problem? The schedule in the national camp has not changed for so many years. We need fresh ideas. If we have to move forward, we have to be ruthless and change the system,” he asserted.
Only three Indian boxers had qualified for the Rio Games, a sharp decline from the 8 who made the cut four years ago for the London edition. In fact, not a single woman boxer managed to qualify for the Games this time.
“Having a Federation is an absolute must. Once it is done, we can have qualified coaches to improve performance. Good foreign coaches can be hired so that there is a new exchange of ideas and the coaches should also maintain discipline in the camp,” said Mary Kom, a five-time world champion and London Olympics bronze-medallist.
Boxing is currently being administered by an ad-hoc committee after the national federation was terminated by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
The only foreign coach in the national camp -- Cuban B I Fernandes -- was suspended for indiscipline during the infamous meltdown of L Sarita Devi in the 2014 Asian Games.
Currently the long-serving Gurbax Singh Sandhu is the chief coach, assisted by a handful of home-grown coaches.
“I fully agree with Vijender on accountability, besides the coaching staff should also be changed. They have been around for a very long time and I think now it is time to look for something new,” said Akhil, the Beijing Olympics quarter-finalist.
“Just as boxers are selected through trials, the coaches should also be able to prove themselves.”
Ali Qamar, the country’s first ever Commonwealth Games gold-medallist (2002, Manchester), held a similar view.
“The coaching staff needs overhaul. The pattern of training hasn’t changed for last many years. Simply going out for training trips is not enough, we need fresh inputs in the national camp. A change in the coaching staff can do that. And if we have to go for a foreign coach, bring someone who is accomplished and has the Olympic experience,” Ali Qamar said.
(With PTI inputs)