New Delhi, July 21: "It's as if someone cast an evil eye on Indian boxing", said national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu as he tried to make sense of the downward spiral that gripped the sport's administration four years ago leaving the three Olympic-bound pugilists under tremendous pressure.
Speaking to PTI after returning with the team from a training trip to Sheffield, Sandhu said the three Rio-bound boxers -- Shiva Thapa (56kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (75kg) -- have had to contend with the kind of pressure he himself has never experienced in his more than two decades long stint.
"I have seen the worst of time and the best as well. But right now, there is no federation for such a long time. There is nobody to look after us. Pressure is just too high," Sandhu said.
"We have Shiva and Vikas who are world medallists, Manoj is a Commonwealth Games champion. But we don't have the support of representation in the technical conduct of events. Things have deteriorated post 2012 but I am still positive. Damage has been done but let's hope for the best in future," he added.
Indian boxing has been struggling to get a federation in place since 2012 when the erstwhile Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) was terminated for manipulation in elections. The body that took shape later -- Boxing India -- could not run the show for even a year and had to be dissolved after a rebellion by the state units.
Ever since an ad-hoc committee appointed by the International Boxing Association (AIBA) is administering the sport and elections are being planned tentatively in September to put together a new body -- the Boxing Federation of India.
"The suspension has spoiled a lot of things. It's as if someone cast an evil eye on us," said Sandhu. Asked if India failed to capitalise on the gains made in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where Vijender Singh became the country's first boxer to win a medal, Sandhu said the stagnation began after the 2012 turmoil.
"We had cashed in on Beijing till 2012, it was on the upside. We became Asia's top team, Commonwealth's top team and the had 8 boxers qualifying for the Olympics in 2012. But when the federation was terminated in 2012, the entire process became stagnant.
"From 2013 till date, there is no proper structure, no domestic competitions, we faced problems internationally. Because of this suspension our role in the technical conduct of world events was also reduced and now we have nobody in the technical conduct. That is hurting us. The boxers don't see any of their own in the technical area and that affects performance," Sandhu explained.
"This has been a bit too long, it should have been sorted by now. We were not able to continue the work which started after 2008. This pressure has been a bit too high."
But describing himself an optimist, Sandhu also sought to count the positives, listing the boxers' resilient performances in the past four years right at the top.
"I am always positive till I sink. Because whenever the chips have been down, the boxers have delivered positively on the performance front. There is a lot of pressure but I am quite confident as head coach that the performance will be encouraging and there will be something to feel proud of in this tense and tough situation," he said.
Speaking of the just-concluded trip to Sheffield, Sandhu said, "We trained with UK's Olympic qualified boxers, Bulgarian boxers were also there. We had about 7-9 sparring sessions during this trip. It was a fruitful trip and I think it will help these boys in the Rio Olympics. The boys are peaking."
"We plan to go to Rio on 27th, the bouts will start on 10th. Going early would help us get acclimatised with the weather and the competition venue. Hopefully things will be positive," he added.