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Saturday, April 11, 1998

Pro bug hits Indian boxing below the belt

Alok Sinha  
NEW DELHI, April 10: ``Shun the big, bad world of professional boxing,'' cautioned national coach GS Sandhu. Talking to The Indian Express today, Sandhu said that it had become ``fashionable'' for talented youngsters to quit amateur boxing for money and fame in an alien land.

``These boys don't know what they are getting into. They have absolutely no idea about the demands of professional boxing. They are not only hurting themselves, but also betraying the country which spends so much money to train them,'' he added.

Sandhu was reacting to the recent case of two Indian boxers -- middleweight Devender Thapa and heavyweight Lakha Singh -- having deserted the Indian team in the United States. Thapa and Singh were members of the Indian squad which had gone to participate in the World Army Meet. The two -- who were seen as bright medal prospects for the Commonwealth Games in September and Asian Games in December -- are now in hiding.

This curious case of talented boxers quitting amateur boxing before a biginternational event has hit Indian boxing hard. It started in 1995, when Dharmender Yadav left to take a chance in the British circuit. Then, the rumours doing the rounds at the camp at NIS, Patiala was that there was thousands of pounds to be made in Southall (London).

Another talented boxer, Venkatesh Devarajan, and Asian Games medallist Raj Kumar Sangwan, soon quit the Atlanta Games camp to join Yadav in London.While the tough `Gogi', as Yadav is popularly known, had the temperament and skills to master the grind, Devarajan and Sangwan were left worrying about food and rent bills, once they failed to maintain an all-win record. Devarajan, after a brave stint, decided to return and was lucky to get his job back, but Sangwan nicknamed `Sugar' on the circuit is still slugging it out in the hope of hitting the jack-pot.

Sandhu pointed out that Yadav was an ``exception''. ``The others are just not mentally strong enough to tackle the challenges of pro boxing,'' he said.

``I was really frustrated whenDevarajan quit the camp. He was in with a chance for a medal at Atlanta. He lost to Thai boxer Somluk Kamsing by a mere point in the King's final, and while Kamsing went on to win the Olympic gold, Devarajan was lured by mere $ 2,000 the starting contract.

Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.


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