NEW DELHI: In a break from the tradition, India’s elite men and women boxers will not be travelling to this year’s 72nd edition of the prestigious Strandja Memorial tournament in Bulgaria, which is considered the oldest amateur boxing competition in Europe.
Instead, the country’s Tokyo Olympics-bound boxers will be heading to Spain to participate in the ‘International Boxing Tournament’ – popularly known as ‘Boxam‘ – to be held from March 1 to 7 in Valencia.
All nine pugilists who have so far qualified for the Tokyo Games will be part of the 14-strong Indian contingent; namely, 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).
Others to travel with the squad include Mohammed Hussamuddin, Sumit Sangwan, Sanjeet (men’s) and Manisha Moun and Jasmine Lamboria (women’s). With a view to provide the best of competition opportunities to the Tokyo-bound boxers, it was decided by the Indian coaching staff to send the ‘A’ team for the Boxam meet instead of Strandja Cup.
For the Strandja meet, which has always been a happy hunting ground for the country’s pugilists, the coaching team has decided to name the next-best bunch of boxers, namely Deepak, Kavinder Singh Bisht, Ankush Dahiya, Duryodhan Singh Negi, Ankit Khatana, Sachin Kumar, Naveen Kumar and Manjeet Sandhu.
The season-opening tournament will be played in Sofia from February 21 to 28.
For Amit, the decision to participate in the Boxam meet wasn’t an easy one. The Haryana boxer had received an invitation from the Iranian boxing federation on February 1 to compete in their professional league in cities of Tehran and Arak from February 22 to March 5.
Amit was to feature in five bouts and, for each fight, he would have received $1000 as his fee and an additional $1000 for each victory. However, after consulting his childhood coach Anil Dhankar and high-performance director Santiago Nieva, the boxer decided to send his entry for the Valencia event.
For the six-time world champion Mary Kom, the Boxam meet will mark her return to the competitive arena in almost a year. She had last participated in the Asian Olympic qualifying event in Amman, Jordan, in March before the coronavirus-induced lockdown brought the global sporting events to a complete halt. Later, in September, she was diagnosed with dengue infection which forced her to skip the two-month long European tour in November-December last year.