Boxers get a Bronze medal and a Taxi ride home

Cuba claimed six gold and Russia, three, as the 1st AIBA World Cup Moscow 2008 drew to a close in the Megasport Sport Palace in Moscow, Russia on Sunday. With prize money of $10,000 up for grabs for each champion and $5,000 for each runner-up, it was a healthy pay-day for one of boxing’s proudest nations. All four Indian boxers lost their semi-finals and had to settle for a bronze in the World Cup here. They had promised the nation that the gold medal would be theirs, but the over confidence did not pay off . Three of them went down to boxers from Cuba, a traditional powerhouse in the sport. Barring Akhil Kumar, who put up a strong fight against Olympic silver medallist Leon Alarcon Yankiel, the rest of them fizzled out without much to show. Akhil, who had made it to the Beijing Olympics quarterfinal, showed resilience and fought bravely in the 54-kg (bantamweight) category.

The defeated boxers returned home earlier this week and were greeted with the usual fanfare and media flashlights, as it was expected for any national team. The boxers gave a couple of good, true to life and heartfelt interviews about how they could’ve won the gold, but lost their calm in some crucial seconds of the fight.

But once the flashlights went off, the story was a little different; our wonderful and efficient Boxing Federation had made no arrangements for them and the medal to be taken home safely. The local airport cabbies showed more respect to the boxers and took them home safely.

The first AIBA Bronze medal presented to India was taken home in a black and green Maruti Omni cab, for which I am quite sure that the Boxing Federation would have not paid for, since the cabbies were doing a service to the nation and they had also spent the entire money on getting that famous Russian vodka everyone had told them about.

A nation where cricketers get a hero’s welcome on losing the World Cup in 2003 , the other sportsman get a cab ride home. Boxing is one of the world’s highest paying sports, with purses going up to $100,000 for prize-fighters. India is a nation where we love the Rocky movies, adore Muhammad Ali, and crack jokes about the infamous Mike Tyson, yet we do not know the names of any Indian boxing legend. Don’t feel bad; even the Boxing Federation doesn’t know them.

We have seen many touching news stories about how an ex-boxer is forced to sell his medals to feed his children or how he is working as a labourer to support his diet. My question is, who is at fault here? Is it the media for ‘ignoring’ everyone who does not play cricket? Or the government for ignoring everyone in general, or we the public?

The real answer is that it is us who are to be blamed. We ignore all the other sports. How many of us ever go for a boxing match or even for a match of our national game, hockey? If we really want to do something for these sports stars, then we need to do just one simple thing, and that is to watch them play it and that’s the only way we can help any player of any sport to excel.
Ishaan Bhardawaj

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