Can Sanjay Dutt uplift Indian boxing?

Despite the success in Beijing, all is not exactly hunky dory for Indian boxing and getting Sanjay Dutt as a brand ambassador is still not good enough.

updated: September 19, 2008 17:55 IST
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Despite the success in Beijing, all is not exactly hunky dory for Indian boxing and getting Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt as a brand ambassador, though a positive step forward, is still not good enough.

"It's a huge responsibility on me to be the brand ambassador and I promise that in the next Olympics we'll return not with a bronze, but a gold medal," said Sanjay Dutt.

One hopes he attracts more sponsorship for events like the National Championships than Vijender, Akhil and Jitender managed to, even after their exploits in Beijing. Sadly ground realities aren't changing in a hurry. The boxers from various parts of the country are still jostling for ideal practice facilities and basic necessities.

"People generally come into boxing from very humble backgrounds. Thinking of dieticians, trainers, yoga is a big thing. Not everyone comes from a rich family like Abhinav Bindra. We have to struggle a lot. Even when we're participating in state championships, we have to put in the entry fees ourselves, and then arrange for food and accommodation on our own as well," said a young Maharashtrian boxer, Piyush Yadav.

The winsome threesome of Akhil, Vijender, and Jitender from Beijing were the star guests in Bhatinda but they're also quick to realise that lots more needs to change for boxing to become a better career option. That of course includes more TV coverage and better financial security.

"Fame and money, however much you have of both, it's not enough. It's important for everyone to get jobs to get their future secure. And that is not good enough now, as of now only railways, services and police have boxing. There should be much more of that," Akhil Kumar said.

But it's not all hopeless. The sight of cheerleaders at the national boxing championship was an indication that boxing could well become glamourous especially if the planned IPL like league comes into place.

"I think Sanjay Dutt is a good crowd puller. He'll be a motivator for boys and I think he'll be able to enroll some industrialists. He'll be able to spin some money for boxing and make it a little more attractive and audience friendly," said an optimistic GS Sandhu, the Indian boxing coach.

Corporates come in to help athletes at a much later stage, that gives them that final push to try and win a medal. But it's the grass roots stuff, like national camps and the living conditions there that need to be taken care of, not just by the government, but the corporates as well. That'll ensure a growth in the popularity of the game throughout the country.