India's Professional Punch

Updated: 08 July 2015 20:21 IST

A little over a week after Vijender Singh's switch from amateur to professional boxing, India now has a body dedicated exclusively to professional boxing.

India
The Indian Boxing Council was launched on July 8, 2015. © NDTV

"Why do models switch to acting after a while? Because they want to try out something new, it's a new and a better opportunity," explains Brigadier PK Muralidhar Raja, an old hand in Indian boxing.

That's the thought behind the formation of the Indian Boxing Council (IBC), dedicated solely to professional boxing in India. Infinity Optimal Solutions (IOS), the firm that played a big role in Vijender Singh's plunge into professional boxing, will be the marketing arm of the IBC.

The idea behind the IBC is to create a boxing ecosystem. Amateur boxers are at their fittest best till the age of about 28-29, after which most of them depend of government jobs to keep their homes running. That's where professional boxing comes in as a solution.

"When you're done with achieving glory for India, what is your path after that?" Brigadier Raja said at the launch of the IBC. "That's where professional boxing comes in, as an extension of your amateur career."

The obvious question that comes up then is, is this not going to have an adverse effect on amateur boxing? Professional boxing may offer money, glitz and glamour, but it doesn't offer you the opportunity to represent India at events like the Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games.

The IBC though is not an answer, or even a rival for amateur boxing, at least that's what they claim. "Professional boxing is like a new born baby in India," IOS CEO Neerav Tomar told NDTV.

"The transition will be tough, but to smoothen it we've increased the age to start professional boxing in India. In the West, they start when they're 18. Here's we're making them go pro at the age of 23. Which means, they will be competing in the amateur circuit till that age, and then take the leap."

The talent scouting process will begin as soon as possible, as the IBC officials have given themselves a timeline of September end to get things started. Professional coaches will visits the various zones of the country, explain the rules of the professional boxing to them, and train them for the first set of bouts.

Bouts, that will be fought in 10 weight divisions, just like it is in amateur, for the beginning stages at least, will have competitions starting at the city level, and the move up to state, national, Asian, and finally the world level. "The idea is not make it like one-off Fight Nights, but an ecosystem for professional boxing," Brigadier Raja told NDTV.

Boxers will get at least four fights a year, and the basic prize purse stands at 6 lakh at least. Is amateur boxing then in danger, and will India miss out on Olympic prospects? "Not at all," said Tomar.

"This is like a job, a boxer is working hard, and he deserves to earn money for that work. Our tennis players play on the professional tour as well, why aren't they questioned?"

India's amateur boxing federation is currently in a mess, with an ad-hoc body running affairs. In such a situation, it will be interesting to see how young boxers, who haven't even got to participate in tournaments like the nationals regularly due to the administrative mess, react to these new developments.

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