The sport of boxing was included in the Olympics programme for the first time in 1904 and has since featured in all but one edition of the Games. It wasn’t a part of the Stockholm Games in 1912 as Swedish law at the time banned the sport of boxing.
So far, India has managed two boxing medals at the Olympic Games, with Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom winning bronze medals for the nation. However, one can hope for better outcomes come at Tokyo 2020 with several promising young boxers entering the fray.
With the World Boxing Championships scheduled to start soon, here’s a quick refresher on the rules, Olympic medallists and top prospects for Indian boxing.
The rule book
Boxing is an individual sport played between two opponents, where the aim is to either outscore your opponent or win via knockout. In Olympic boxing, there are three rounds of three minutes each. However, a bout can end up being shorter if a boxer gets knocked out.
A boxer is only allowed to punch from the waist up, with points being awarded only to the punches that land clean. A panel of five judges sit on all sides of the ring and judge the correctness of a punch and observe if it has landed cleanly. Scores in boxing are however only revealed at the end of the bouts.
If a player falls to the ground after suffering a few blows, he/she is given a ten-second countdown to get back on his/her feet and prove to the referee that they are capable of continuing the fight. In case the player isn’t able to stand up, it is considered as a knockout and the match is awarded to the opponent. A player would also lose the bout if he/she falls to the ground three times in one round.
Like with wrestling, boxing has different weight categories, with eight different classifications for men’s while the women have five different categories at Tokyo 2020.
India, boxing and Olympics
Although Indian has achieved success in global competitions like the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and World Championships, that success has not really translated into sustained success in the Olympic ring.
The likes of Kaur Singh and Rajendra Prasad were the nation’s dominant forces in the 1980s and 90s, winning two Asian Championships and an Asian Games medal between them. Kaur Singh participated in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics but was unable to progress further in the competition after winning his first two bouts.
India’s boxing at the Olympics shone brightly at Beijing 2008 when Vijender Singh created history by winning the nation’s first-ever medal in boxing. The lanky pugilist from Haryana defeated Ecuador’s Carlos Gongora in the quarterfinals to assure himself of a medal. He though had to settle for a bronze after losing Emilio Correa in the next round.
Four years later, Indian had another Olympic medal in the sport, with their veteran fighter Mary Kom winning the bronze at the very first time women's boxing was introduced at the Games. The Manipuri athlete was exceptional throughout the competition, winning most of her bouts pretty comfortably until she was foiled in the semifinals by eventual gold medallist Nicola Adams.
India’s boxers failed to capitalise at Rio 2016, with their best performing athlete being Vikas Krishnan Yadav, who was eliminated in the quarterfinals.
The nation’s boxing contingent though would be optimistic of their prospects for Tokyo 2020, with a good blend of youth and experience in the ranks. Record World Championships gold medallist Mary Kom is still going strong at 36, and several younger boxers like Shiva Thapa, Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik have joined the fray.
India won 13 medals for boxing at the 2019 Asian Championships held in April, more than any other participating nation. The nation’s boxers also did brilliantly at the Umakhanov Memorial tournament held last month, with young pugilists Neeraj and Lovlina Borgohain winning gold at the tournament.
With the Olympics less than a year away now, the Indian boxers seem to have found their groove at the perfect time and will be looking to continue this form in Tokyo next year.