Bhatinda:The 55th National Boxing Championships kicked off in Bhatinda, Punjab, on Saturday with all the expected fanfare. There were flag bearers, a live band, all the bigwigs and an expectant crowd. What was missing though was the money. The Indian Boxing Federation was hoping that the Olympic success of our boxers would draw in the corporates and the money. That was a miscalculation. Not a single sponsor was willing to put in cash.
"Unfortunately there haven't been any big sponsors yet, whatever you can see here has been done by the locals, by the Punjab government. We've been approached by sponsors, but nothing major here yet," said Col. Raja, General Secretary of the Indian Boxing Federation.
So the bulk of the money came from the Punjab government combined with local sponsors chipping in with contributions, like boxing gear, residential facilities, tents, chairs and food. The IBF is now turning to star power for help.
"Sanjay Dutt is going to be our brand ambassador. When Sanjay Dutt is our brand ambassador, which corporate house would not want to be a part of that because if they have to make Sanjay Dutt even stand somewhere, they need to spend crores. Here they don't need to spend a whole lot to get Sanjay Dut, since he is our brand ambassador," Abhay Chautala, President of IBF said.
Akhil and the Beijing Boxing squad are lucky to have drawn in close to two crore in cash awards, Vijender has even picked up a personal endorsement deal but he realises that only if the money trickles down to the sport at large, will the profile of boxing in the country change.
"As the money in boxing increases more and more people will get involved in the game. Like there is so much money in cricket so people run towards cricket, so if boxing can offer the same people will come into this sports as well," said bronze medalist Vijender Kumar.
After the recent success of our boxers in Beijing everyone thought that boxing was the next big thing, but the lukewarm response to the first big event after the Olympics show that though the corporates are willing to sign deals with Akhil, Vijender and Jitender, they still don't want to pour in the money into the events that brought out such boxers.