Santiago Nieva: European trip crucial for Indian boxers’ Olympic preparations

Both the men's and women's teams will be in action at the Cologne World Cup from December 17

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

Indian boxers are all set to step in the ring at the upcoming Cologne World Cup in Germany which is going to start from December 17, with India’s High Performance Director Santiago Nieva looking forward to making the most of the tournament to assess the strengths and weaknesses of his squad.

A contingent of nine men and five women boxers along with the coaching staff have been camping in Europe since October as part of preparations for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Nieva is content with the way things are shaping up and feels that the European trip was a necessary exercise as the Covid-19 pandemic had thrown the boxing calendar into the wind.

“It was very important for us to get out of Patiala and get some different sparring. We had good sparring in Italy. We went to a competition, the first since the Olympic qualifiers (in March), in France. We had another competition in Milan. We needed to get back on track and test ourselves with boxers of different styles. This was crucial for our Olympics preparation because in India we obviously had limited (scope)... I think we are ahead of other countries in our international schedule.” - Santiago Nieva to Sportstar.

The Indian team have been living in a bio-bubble in Europe and have not been able to indulge in any leisure activities since France and Italy are two of the worst-affected countries by the pandemic.

“We would have liked to go for some sightseeing in Rome or Venice. But we are on a mission for the Olympics and cannot risk ourselves.”

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The pugilists were set for an early return to India during the first week of December but the management decided to extend the trip so that they can test themselves against some of the best in the business at the Cologne World Cup, formerly known as the Chemistry Cup. The event will witness around 100 boxers in action from Europe and India in 13 weight categories.

"Chemistry Cup was initially scheduled in October. Then Germany had COVID-19 problems. They postponed it, gave us an invitation. When we evaluated, we realised it was worth extending our trip for two more weeks. It will not be as strong as other years when Cuba and the USA were there. But there are strong European countries like Germany, France and Great Britain. There are no super-strong competitions in the world right now." - Santiago Nieva

The event is more significant for women boxers as this will be the first competitive tournament for them since the Asian Boxing Qualifiers in March 2020. Whereas, the men's team did get to spend some time in the ring at the invitational Alexis Vastine International Boxing Tournament in France last October.

Nine Indian boxers have already qualified for the Tokyo Olympics so far. But Nieva will hope to see more names added to the list when the qualifiers kick off in 2021.