Indian boxers will attempt to put a four-year long administrative turmoil behind them when they launch their Olympic campaign at the Riocentro arena here on Tuesday.
The chaos in the boxing administration in India has affected the preparations of the national squad. There has been no senior national tournament for the last four years and the absence of a national federation has resulted in very little foreign exposure for the boxers.
This was reflected in the reduced number of boxers who have qualified for the Rio Games. Shiva Thapa (56kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (75kg) are the three pugilists who will represent the Indian challenge in Rio, down from eight at the 2012 London Olympics.
Vikas is the only Indian boxer to get a seeding but none of them managed to secure a first-round bye. Vikas, placed sixth in the world rankings in his weight category, is the seventh seed in the middleweight (75kg) division.
Thapa is also ranked sixth in the world in the bantamweight (56kg) category, but he failed to get a seeding due to a goof-up by the ad-hoc committee running boxing in India.
According to the new rules implemented recently by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the Olympic seedings were done after considering the performances of each boxer in professional tournaments like the Pro Boxing (APB) and World Series of Boxing (WSB).
But the ad-hoc committee did not inform the boxers of this new rule and as a result, Thapa did not participate in APB, missing the opportunity to be seeded. He now has to face a seeded boxer as early as in the first round.
Vikas will ring in India’s campaign with a bout against 18-year-old American Charles Conwell on Tuesday.
Vikas won gold at the 2010 Asian Games and took the 2011 World Championship title. He is one the country’s strong medal hopes.
The 24-year-old was the victim of some controversial officiating at the London Olympics and will be eager to set the records straight.
Services coach B.B. Mohanty, who has trained Vikas and Shiva at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, asserted that his wards have learnt from their experience at the London Olympics and will do better in in Rio.
"It is very difficult to do well in your maiden Olympics. The pressure is too much and you do not have the experience to handle it. Both Vikas and Shiva have learnt their lessons from the London Olympics. Vikas was treated unfairly by the judges in the 2012 Games and he is determined to prove himself this time," Mohanty told IANS.
Thapa will start his campaign in the bantamweight division with what is expected to be a tough bout against sixth seed Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba.
Ramirez had won the flyweight (52kg) title at the 2012 Olympics, but will compete in a new category this time.
Shiva, who took bronze at the World Championships last year, has faced Ramirez before. The duo had met each other in the 2010 Youth Olympics final in which the Cuban had emerged triumphant.
"Shiva has faced Ramirez before. The two met at the Youth Olympics and it was a close bout which could have gone either way. Now Shiva is much better aware of Ramirez’s style, his strengths and weaknesses and is much better equipped to defeat him," Mohanty said.
Manoj Kumar was also handed a tough challenge in the light welterweight (64kg) category.
The 2010 Commonwealth Games champion will be up against Evaidas Petrayskas of Lithuania in his opening bout.
Petrayskas won gold in the lightweight (60kg) division at the London Olympics.