The pros of being amateur
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There is no official word yet, but it appears that Mumbai Fighters have opted out of the 2012 season of the World Series of Boxing. It was always going to be hard for the franchise to build up popular support for boxing in India. Despite the increased drama quotient that live broadcasts of uncovered heads and torsos and knockouts provided, crowds were thin, perhaps due to a lack of top-of-the-line boxers. Vijender Singh, Indian boxing's only truly saleable face, didn't take part because he wanted to compete in the Commonwealth and Asian Games. WSB boxers are not permitted to compete in events other than the World Championships in the year of their participation.
India has never really had a market for the semi-professional boxing that the WSB marketed. Boxing in India is an overwhelmingly amateur sport. If a young Indian boxer had to choose between a WBC title belt or an Olympic medal, it would be the latter every time. And the WSB provides no guaranteed jump to Olympic success. Five quota places were allotted to the winners of the WSB individual competitions. Of those, two were rejected by their national federations in favour of others who qualified through the Worlds and regional championships.
This isn't to say that professionalisation doesn't have its advantages. The Fighters were paid fairly well, and their coaches say that boxing longer periods with lessened protection bettered their stamina and defensive skills. Despite this, none of them made the national team.
Mumbai Fighters say they will be back next year, their third of a ten-year contract. With no prestigious events like the Asian or Commonwealth Games till 2014, they have a clear window within which to recruit more familiar faces. Meanwhile, attention should be directed to the Senior Boxing Nationals, which begin in Hyderabad next month. While the event wont have the flair of the WSB, the stakes are higher, with good performances likely to earn youngsters spots in the national camp. It's a pity the Nationals aren't being telecast. Instead of going after a yet-to-be-created market, it might be wiser to tap one that already exists.
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