Fitness, will and long hours of training are needed to make a mark in a sport that is gaining viewers in India
Manisha Moun’s boxing career began on childhood advice. “I was fighting the whole day with people in my school. That is when my boxing coach spotted me and told me ‘why don’t you do boxing’,” she says.
Moun, 25, is competing at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship 2023 in Delhi. When she started training in 2011, women in boxing were rare. “In year 2013 I got my first gold medal and became the best boxer in Haryana. Then the BFI was formed within two years and I got to play the nationals. That is when I got a silver medal and my first foreign tour. This is the time I felt that boxing can be looked at as a viable career option, something which can allow me to take care of my financial situation and help me fulfil my responsibilities,” she says, referring to the Boxing Federation of India.
Women boxers are knocking down gender barriers and prejudices. “We have five women boxers from Bhiwani in the World Championship and these girls are rock stars,” says Vijender Singh, the Indian professional boxer who as an amateur won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In a cricket-obsessed country, where even a mediocre player can have a career and there are clubs and coaches for the sport, boxing is finding its corner. “Boxing is the no.1 combat sport in India, with 33 per cent more viewership than the second-most-viewed combat sport. Boxing has become particularly famous with women. The fact that the Indian women’s boxing team has come from No 44 to No 3 (in ranking) is a testament that these girls are doing really well,” says Avantika Meattle, vice chairperson of marketing commission at IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship 2023.
“Women are getting more and more into combat sports now and people are coming to see it also. Earlier everything was about cricket, but I am glad things are changing and more people are coming to watch women do boxing,” she says.
She says people definitely like to watch women boxing much more than men. Says Meattle, “It is such a wonderful spectacle to see women boxing, and it’s much more exciting to see women boxing than men. Women are not afraid of punching or being punched any longer. I simply love watching their strength, their passion, their determination. They come from really simple families, and they are so charged up and are doing amazingly well.”
‘Mitti ka khel’
Boxers court pain, suffering cuts often or ligament ruptures and bone fractures if the injuries are worse. Singh says boxing is called “mitti ka khel” (dirt sport) in home state of Haryana, denoting its simplicity and roughness. “You don’t need anything–no fancy infrastructure, just you have to break people. But today with better training, injuries are much less.”
Subodh Mehta, a corporate executive in Delhi, is the father of two teenage boys. “Frankly speaking I would be less comfortable if my boys opted for boxing or wrestling. I would prefer them to play a gentleman’s game like cricket because of the fact that in boxing, you will bleed and get injured,” says Mehta.
Indian boxing legend MC Mary Kom was recently operated upon for anterior cruciate ligament injury. “Injury is common for athletes but if it happens right before the competitions, that’s the hardest thing an athlete could handle because you have been training for months with a goal and suddenly it vanishes,” she says.
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In boxing the hardest part isn’t pain or injury, but to train hard for long. To become a world-class boxer, one has to completely change her lifestyle. “It takes ten years to develop a quality ten-round fighter. And during those years the fighter has to work at it one hundred percent of the time. That means very early in his career a young man has to decide whether he’s interested in boxing as a sport or as his livelihood. And if it is for his livelihood, he’d better understand what it means to train and train right. Training is everything,” said Angelo Dundee, who trained American boxing legend Muhammad Ali.
“I’d say that 11 or 12 years old is a decent starting age for boxing training. Besides passion and inspiration, one needs to evaluate and know himself/herself whether her body and temperament suits boxing or not,” says Mary Kom.
Some have done well by starting boxing when they were in their late teens. Boxer Manju Bamboriya entered the sport when she was 17. “I used to play kabaddi and my coach influenced me to take up boxing in school. I was 17-year then and realized that while kabaddi was time pass, boxing is where my true passion was. I am so happy to see that today it is not just a passion but can become a profession since it has become financially viable now and we feel there is a future,” she says.
Gagan Bhardwaj, an international coach, lists some top boxing academies in India. These include Bhiwani Boxing Club, Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, Crosstrain Fight Club, Mary Kom-SAI Boxing Academy, Gladiators Boxing Academy, Balaji Boxing Academy, Manoj Kumar Boxing Academy, Boxing Academy For Women Empowerment, Najafgarh Boxing Academy, Muaythai Boxing Academy and Khalifa the School of Boxing. The monthly fee of a boxing academy may range from Rs 250 in a government institute to Rs 2,500 in a private academy.
Coaches will pick you up for fights if they see potential, but you should have the will and the skill. Indians are watching sports other than cricket and putting in money for them too. Football, hockey, kho kho and kabaddi leagues mean careers, fame and money. Boxing is coming up there too. But to make this dream come true, you will require proper guidance, dedication, training and a disciplined lifestyle.
Here is a table of Boxing classes in India along with the duration and cost of the course:
|Price Range (INR)
|Bhiwani Boxing Club
|Admission Fee (Annually)
|Admission Fee for girl-Boxers and sub junior Boxers (Annually)
|Competition/Tournament Charges (Annually)
|Training Fees (Monthly)
|Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports
|Under 16 years (Monthly)
|Above 16 years (Monthly)
|Spark Kick Boxing Academy
|Crosstrain Fight Club
|Blue Dragon Mixed Martial Arts
|Royal Kickboxing Academy
|Realm Fitness Fight Club
|R Boxing Club
|Crosstrain Fight Club
|Gladiators boxing academy
|Balaji Boxing Academy
|Najafgarh Boxing Academy
|Khalifa the School of boxing
|Muaythai Boxing Academy
Source: With Inputs from TechSci Research and international boxing coach (AIBA 2 Star) Gagan Bhardwaj