The Asian Games Boxing event saw great action and even greater emotions for India. On one side we had Mary Kom’s historic gold and her jubilation on the podium, and on the other side we had Sarita Devi’s staunch and principled refusal to accept the bronze medal.
Different Messages from Mary Kom and Sarita Devi
The two women pugilists contributed to the event in their own different ways. Mary Kom made history by becoming the first Indian woman boxer to win an Asiad gold. Sarita Devi’s fight for justice was crucial in exposing a flawed system that shatters the dreams of hardworking boxers. Sarita added a bronze to India’s tally but she surely deserved better.
Decline in Boxing Performance
India had performed better at the Guangzhou Asian Games where we had captured 9 medals including 7 in the Men’s section. Three key factors impacted the performance from India. Firstly 2010 Asian Games gold medallist Vijender Singh’s absence hurt the contingent . Secondly biased officials were responsible for at least 3 results going against India, especially when it came to bouts against South Korean boxers. Finally the impasse between the world body AIBA and India’s boxing federation that resulted in lack of exposure for Indian boxers for the last 2 years impacted our performance.
The Medal Winners
As the saying goes, ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’. Mary Kom lived true to that adage and was able to prove that there is no substitute to perseverance and dedication. Mary had been away from international boxing meets since the 2012 Olympics but she was able to use all her experience in clinching the Boxing Gold in the women’s 48-51 kg event .
Mary Kom was also making a comeback to the Indian ranks as she had lost in the trials for the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The loss in CWG trials had toughened Mary further, who vowed to reply in a fashion only she is known for – by winning.
Progress of Mary Kom
Former five-time world champion Mary Kom was impressive throughout her event. She outpunched Yeji Kim of Korea in the Round of 16 bout, Si Haijuan of China in the quarters and Ler Thi Bang of Vietnam in the semi-final.
In the summit clash – her opponent, the 24-year-old Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan was resolute and eager to test Mary hard and the Kazakh even won the first round.
Mary Kom had started cautiously with a defensive approach but upped the ante from the second round onwards. With a clinical display in the final round, Mary Kom etched her name in record books.
There is no dearth to the firsts she has achieved over the course of her career for her country and for herself. To an already glittering resume containing the Olympic bronze medal, the World Championship Golds, she now adds the Asian Games gold medal.
Former world champion Laishram Sarita Devi won a bronze and here is a recap of her performance and subsequent protest
Pooja Rani who had won a silver medal in the 2012 Asian Championships, entered the quarters by beating Undram of Mongolia 3-0 in women’s middle weight (69-75) kg. She then outplayed Shen Dara Flora of Chinese Taipei in her quarter-final bout. Pooja had to settle for the bronze medal after losing the semi-final 0-2 to China’s Li Qian.
2010 Asian Games gold medallist Vikas Krishan fought off his personal demons as well as his opponents to return to the medals circle once again. Krishan defeated Azamat Uulu Kanybek of Kyrgyzstan to reach the quarterfinals in the 75kg category. In the quarter-finals, he beat Hurshidbek of Uzbekistan.
But Vikas could not do better than bronze as he lost his semi-final bout 1-2 to World Champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan.
Great Comeback by Vikas Krishnan
Krishan who had not fought internationally since the 2012 Olympics had been shattered by the way he was let down at the 2012 Olympics – a jury overturned the result of a bout that Vikas had initially won.
That incident had hurt Vikas so much that he had stopped taking part in boxing and his comeback into the medal bracket now is a huge morale booster for the former World Championship bronze medallist.
By beating Jordan’s Hussein Eishaish, Satish Kumar reached the semi-finals, assuring India at least a bronze medal in the superheavy weight category (+91kg). Satish went down to a formidable opposition in the next round and thus couldn’t better the colour of his medal. Satish lost in a 0-3 verdict to Olympic medallist and world champion Ivan Dychko of Kazakhstan in the last-four stage.
Results of other boxers
One of the biggest news from Indian men’s boxing was the return of the Showman of Indian boxing, Akhil Kumar. After a three-year injury break, the 33-year-old Akhil showed flashes of his dominant self and notched an effortless Technical Knockout triumph over Purna Bahadur Lama of Nepal in the first round of Men’s Lightweight (60kg) division. Akhil’s comeback was short-lived as he was knocked out in the Round of 16.
The talented Shiva Thapa who was the youngest Indian to qualify for the London Olympics went down to Philippines’ Mazrio Fernandez 0-3 in his quarterfinal bout of the bantamweight (56kg) category.
Controversies came to haunt India even in the men’s section as Devendro Singh, despite being the more dominant boxer, lost his quarterfinal bout to home favourite Shin Jonghun in the 49kg.
Luck also ran out for Glasgow Commonwealth Games silver medallist Mandeep Jangra in 69kg as he lost in the last-eight stage.
Future of boxing
Few days before the mega quadrennial event began, the Indian boxers didn’t even know if they would be able to participate under the Indian flag. Given the circumstances, it is a respectable performance. Now with a newly elected Boxing India that has received provisional recognition from AIBA and with zealous, exuberant youngsters aiming to do well, India can hope for a better haul of boxing medals in future events.