The meteoric rise of Indian boxing has been proven in no uncertain terms when as many as eight pugilists [seven men, one woman] made the cut for 2012 London Olympics starting 27 July. Boxing, not so long back, was like any other discipline trying to find its foothold in a land obsessed with cricket. However, Vijender Singh’s triumph at 2008 Beijing Olympics singlehandedly transformed an otherwise brutal combat sport into a fashionable game, as sponsors started to employ imaginative strategies to promote boxing with dollops of glitz and glamour thrown in.
Amidst this backdrop, Shamya Dasgupta’s book, Bhiwani Junction-The Untold Story of Boxing in India, comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air. Apart from portraying an articulate picture tracing the evolution of boxing in India, Bhiwani in particular, what makes reading more enjoyable is its lucid language and subtle touch of wit.
Being a sports journalist by profession, the author witnessed boxing’s facelift from upclose. The book is the result of his observations, backed by detailed research and well-documented interviews.
With the panache of a passionate boxing lover, the author deals with the history of boxing in India, stories on several boxing greats [past and present], analysis of boxing’s rebirth, the reasons behind Bhiwani becoming mini Cuba and the state of women’s boxing in the country.
As we read along, an incredibly fascinating story unfolds, a tale which has remained largely untold. Every sport has some interesting stories, but you need someone to tell them. And if the storyteller happens to be a follower of sports, the narration becomes all the more captivating. Same goes for Bhiwani Junction.
Despite having tremendous potential, boxing in India is plagued by lack of adequate infrastructure, government’s apathy and inefficiency of those at the helm of affairs. An interesting feature of the book is the way it highlights the contradictions still plaguing the efforts to cleanse the game. The author also depicts how frequent feuds between state bodies, private clubs and government-run projects keep Indian boxing on its toes.
Shamya is no armchair commentator, as he not only highlights what’s going wrong, but also suggests measures to overcome the problems. The book explains how private sector support is vital to the game’s development. Each sport should have one large private sector sponsor [like Mittal Champions Trust], in order to make a difference. It’s a well-known fact that big corporate houses must take more interest in sports if the country wants to reach greater heights.
The tale of Bhiwani, a district in Haryana that changed the face of Indian boxing, is worth reading.