| Dingko Singh |
Calcutta: Dingko Singh, hero of the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games and a former King’s Cup winner, spoke to The Telegraph on Wednesday evening.
Dingko, the first poster boy of Indian boxing, now 33, did the interview from New Delhi. He’s an Arjuna Awardee.
The following are excerpts
Q M.C. Mary Kom lost in the semi-finals, but will still return home with a bronze...
A Absolutely... We should hail Mary for winning the bronze, not fault her for losing in the last-four.
What are your feelings?
(Gets emotional) Mary has achieved what many of us boxers couldn’t... Even I’d dreamt of adding an Olympic medal to my Asian Games gold, but that wasn’t to be... No words can aptly describe what Mary has achieved. Main bahut hi khush hoon.
In a way, Mary has somewhat mixed emotions. Should she be very disappointed?
Not at all.
Could Mary have devised a better strategy?
As the opponent (Nicola Adams) was taller, Mary should have approached it a bit differently, fought almost entirely from the medium and close range. The coaches (Anoop Kumar, Charles Atkinson) ought to have given her a different game plan.
Mary Kom had to move up, in a higher weight category. Did that work to her disadvantage?
But Mary didn’t have a choice... I’d look at the positives, on history being created... A first for Indian boxing and a medal the very first time that women’s boxing got introduced in the Olympics. Mary won’t be forgotten and will remain an inspiration.
You must be knowing Mary Kom personally...
Of course... We’ve learnt the basics from the same coach, the legendary L.Ibomcha Singh... He's based in Imphal and keeps producing champions... Mary is very hard-working and clear about what she wants.
To talk of the men’s boxers in the London Olympics, what are your expectations from Devendro Singh?
Very high... Devendro’s bout is later tonight... I’m confident he won’t return empty handed.
What’s special about Devendro?
His aggression... I’d say he’s an impulsive boxer and will do whatever comes to his mind when the bout begins... He’s not the type to faithfully follow the coach’s advice. Uske dimag mein jo aye ga, wahi kare ga. That’s Devendro. He doesn’t give up.
Vijender Singh plans to move up, to the light-heavy category. What’s your take?
I’m sure Vijender has given it much thought and is convinced he’ll be comfortable... I wish him the best... Like Mary, he’s been a trendsetter... The bronze Vijender secured in Beijing (2008) changed the face of Indian boxing. Being 26, he’s still young and is bound to bounce back.
How do you rate Vijender?
Sumit Sangwan and Vikas Krishan had controversial exits...
I wouldn’t like to comment specifically... Both are young, should take it in their stride and move on. That’s my advice to both.
[Sangwan is 19, while Krishan is 20.]
You deserve a lot of credit for raising the interest level in boxing. Today, how do you look back on what you did, in Bangkok, 14 years ago?
Just gave it my best shot and punched my way to gold... I don’t have an Olympic medal, but I accepted it by telling myself that I wasn’t destined to be an Olympic winner.
What do boxers require the most?
Luck and the blessings of God.
Manipur is to boxing what Mumbai was to cricket till a couple of decades ago...
(Laughs) That’s because, by nature, we’re aggressive... Gussa aa jata hai... But we box for India first, Manipur comes later. Actually, Haryana is also producing very good boxers... Vijender’s from there... The Sports Authority of India’s Special Area Games projects have played a big role.
Finally... What takes up most of your time?
I’m the coach of the Indian Navy boxing team, it’s a full-time job. I’m based in Mumbai.