Boxing, as a sport in India, is at the peak of its popularity today. The fan base is growing manifold with each medal that the boxers are earning. And the Indian boxers are also able to make a living out of this “sweet science”. Big achievements and inspirational performances have earned pugilists unrivaled respect in the sporting community.
Sports Rediscovered takes a look at the five most important events in the rise of boxing in India; from insignificance to being the super star sport.
#1 Captain Hawa Singh’s Asian Dominance
The first time boxing in India started to gain popularity was the decade between 1960s and early 70s. Hawa Singh won the national title consecutively for 11 years from 1961-72. In the heavyweight category, he won two consecutive Asian Games medals in the 1966 and 1970 Asiads in Bangkok and Thailand. This feat stands unmatched in India even to this day.
Hawa Singh was undoubtedly the trailblazer in Indian boxing. Not only did he dominate the ring for over a decade, the Bhiwani Boxing Club that he founded, has produced some of India’s finest boxers. Four out of five boxers (including Vijender Singh), who were selected for the Beijing Olympics cut their teeth at the Bhiwani Boxing Club.
Hawa Singh is a recipient of both Arjuna Award and Dronacharya Award for Boxing.
#2 Dingko Singh Rises To Glory
Born to a poor family in a remote village of Manipal, Dingko Singh is considered one of the finest pugilists to have ever stepped inside the ring for India.
Dingko Singh made his international debut in 1997. He needed no second chance as he won his debut tournament — the King’s Cup in Bangkok. He was also adjudged the best boxer at the meet.
The achievement that he will be remembered forever for, came to pass the next year. Dingko, had moved up from the 51kg category to 54kg just a few months before the Asian Games were to be held in Bangkok in 1998. Boxing with heavier opponents did not intimidate Dingko. With everyone’s attention on the ‘new kid from India’, Dingko beat world no. 5 Timur Tulyakov of Uzbekistan in emphatic style in the final.
Dingko Singh was the first boxer to rise from Manipur. Dingko’s achievements gave the Manipuri youth a new hope and as confirmed by Mary kom he inspired the next generation of boxers from that region.
#3 Beijing Olympics – Vijender bags a medal , puts Indian Boxing on the radar
Soon after they rose to fame, both Dingko Singh and Mohammed Ali Qamar were plagued by injuries and faded into oblivion. For a long time, no major achievement fell India’s way in the international boxing circuit. With the sportsmen, the sport also start to lose its popularity.
It was in 2008 that boxing regained its popularity. Vijender Singh won India its first ever Olympic medal in boxing at the Beijing Olympics. For his incredible feat, the Indian crowd turned Vijender into a superstar.