Could India's professional boxers be tempted to Tokyo 2020?
Last month, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) in a letter to its affiliate units stated it was willing to include professional boxers for the Olympics next year.
However, the federations insisted that any boxer who wants to make it to the Indian squad for next year's Olympic qualifiers will have to prove his/ her prowess at the National Championships scheduled to be held next month.
This move comes a few weeks after one of India’s known pugilists Vikas Krishan, who nine months after turning pro, announced that he was willing to take a break from the professional circuit to concentrate on an Olympic bid.
So how much will this move impact Indian boxing heading into Tokyo 2020? We take a look.
A larger pool
The past years have seen some of India’s top pugilists turn pro. A trend that started with the Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Vijender Singh four years back has continued with the likes of Krishan, Siddharth Verma and Neeraj Goyat making the jump in the recent past.
And now with the Indian federation opening its doors for them, it won’t be a surprise if we end up seeing a Vijender turn out for India in the middleweight category. Moreover, with Vijender having to fight his way through the domestic circuit in India, it also proves to be an opportunity for the amateurs to test themselves against an Olympic medallist.
On your toes
With the best Indian boxers expected to fight it out for a place at Tokyo 2020, the move to include pros in the mix would hopefully see the pugilists be on top of their game throughout the season.
Be it the National Championships later in the year or the other competitions that are expected to follow post that, the boxers will have to on their toes as any slip-up could hurt their chances of making it to the squad for the Olympic qualifiers next year.
The best of best
Be it the qualifiers or even the Olympics thereafter, welcoming the pros into the mix could see India send the best pugilist for the competitions even in case of an injury to the first-choice athlete.
While the welterweight has a quality boxer in Duryodhan Singh Negi, if he fails to make the cut, the Indian federation can rely on Krishan to deliver the goods if need be.
Similarly in the lightweight category, though Manish Kaushik has shown great promise in the recent past, he will have to prove his worth time and again if Goyat throws his hat into the ring ahead of the qualifiers.
Though the proposal for including pro boxers for the Tokyo Olympics does look good, only time will tell how much impact will it have in India’s quest to land an Olympic medal in boxing at the next Olympics.
The Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifiers are set to take place in the Chinese city of Wuhan from 3-14 February 2020.
There will also be a final World qualifier in Paris 13-24 May next year to determine who will make the cut for Tokyo 2020.