Indian boxers European trip in 2021 starts with Bulgaria's Strandja Memorial

Santiago Nieva hopes to watch national championships before heading for Tokyo

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

India's boxing contingent is set to crisscross Europe to participate in various competitive tournaments starting with Bulgaria's Strandja Memorial tournament.

Indian boxing's High-Performance Director Santiago Nieva has drawn a detailed plan for the boxers till the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as part of preparations for the mega event.

"This year, we are starting with the Strandja Memorial in Bulgaria, then hopefully a tournament in Hungary and one more after that. Apart from this, we will be staying put at Bengaluru for the national camp and probably invite some foreign teams if they agree to come," he stated.

Strandja Memorial is commonly accepted as the season-opener in Europe and will be held from February 21 to 28 in Sofia.

All nine Tokyo bound Indian boxers - Amit Panghal (52kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg), Satish Kumar (+91kg), M C Mary Kom (51kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), and Pooja Rani (75kg) - are expected to participate in the tournament.

There are also chances that a few more might get the ticket to Tokyo if they perform well in the qualifiers that are set to take place before the games.

The pugilists had previously participated in the boxing World Cup in Cologne in December 2020 where they won nine medals including five gold.

Simranjit Kaur in action

Whereas, the national camp had already started in Patiala in August for the Olympic prospects. However, the athletes were kept away from the ring or sparring to minimise the risk of infection.

"The SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) for COVID in the Patiala national camp barred sparring, so it was nice to get some sparring after a long break. It (Boxing World Cup in Cologne) was much needed and it has helped us stay competitive and we are good now, back on track.

"The boxers needed competition for the sake of motivation and they got two during this Europe trip, it was a huge boost because the disruption had an impact. Not just us, every country has felt a setback and everyone has dealt with it differently," - Santiago Nieva

Nieva hopes that the boxing federation will break away from the convention of holding the nationals after the games in an Olympic year and stage the event before July.

"If it is safe, then I would like to see the national championships soon. Perhaps in a bio-bubble, it would be great to keep boxers motivated because, without competition, it is difficult to just go on training."

"I know it won't be easy to have a bio-bubble given the numbers and scale of it, but we can at least give it a thought and check if it is possible. It won't be a bad idea. The likes of Brazil and China have had their Nationals, we can try too," he said.

It must be noted that the national championship had to be cancelled in 2020 because of the pandemic.