If you thought that cricket was the only sport the Britishers gave India, hold on. Being one of the oldest sports known to mankind, boxing made entry to India only with the British Army in 1884. Records show that a certain George Smith, professional boxer from England, along with two amateur boxers took part in what was supposed to be the first boxing bout organized in India in Calcutta in February 1884.
But then it took another 20 years before another boxing event could come to India. This time a World Lightweight Champion by the name of Jack McAuliffe met his British challenger Tiger Smith. The bout had prize money of Rs. 11,000 then, an amount which most of our boxers don't even earn today, it became a big, big hit. Boxing since then was picked up well in cities like Bangalore, Madras (Chennai), Lahore (Pakistan) and Jabalpur.
But the turning point and the real Indian connection to boxing came when PL Roy 'The Father of Indian Boxing' started making the headlines. Just before the World War I, back in England, Roy won titles in University and Royal Air Force competitions. Roy, a legend in the lifetime of Indian boxing, did his MA from Cambridge University before coming back to the country and develop the sport.
In 1928, Roy's initiative saw first inter-railway boxing competition being organized. Based in Kolkata, Roy encouraged youngsters to take up the sport and trained them at the Netaji Subhas Institute and School of Physical Culture in Kolkata. In fact, Indian Railways immortalized the legend after three decades of his death recently by unveiling a life size statue of his and giving his name to an indoor stadium in Sealdah, Kolkata.
In between Roy's contribution, the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) saw the light of the day on February 25, 1949. Incidentally, the first office of the IABF was established at 62, Majestic Hotel in Bombay and even the first ever National Championships were organized at the picturesque Brabourne Stadium in March 1950. Since then, Indian boxing has gradually progressed which could be measured with medals and titles.
The history of Indian boxing is surely not restricted to a handful. Generations of boxers from the country did their bit to bring Indian boxing where it is today. Given below are some boxers who became household names in their respective eras.
Leslie Buddy D'Souza (light middleweight): Won national title nine times in a row (From 1957-1965), Bronze in 1962 Asian Games
Padam Bahadur Mal (lightweight): First Indian to win a gold at Asian Games in 1962 and was also adjudged the Best Boxer of the Games
Hawa Singh (heavyweight): He is the only Indian boxer to win back to back gold medals in the Asian Games when accomplished the feat winning golds at 1966 and 1970 Asiads
Gurcharan Singh (light heavyweight): Bronze at 1998 Asian Games. Gold at 1996 Mayor's Cup, Manila. Was unlucky to have missed out on being India first boxing medallist at Olympics when he lost his bout on countback in quarterfinals of 2000 Sydney Games.
Kaur Singh (heavyweight): 1982 Asian Games gold medallist
M Xavier (featherweight): Didn't win any medal but his claim to fame was the knockout he delivered to the then World No. 1 Ravsal Otgonbayer of Mongolia in the opening bout of at the 1982 New Delhi Asiad. Referee stopped the bout because Xavier floored his opponent thrice in the first round.
Dingko Singh (bantamweight): 1998 Asian Games gold medallist
Balbir Singh (light flyweight): World sub-junior champion in 2002
Mohammad Ali Qamar (light flywieght): First Indian to win a gold at Commonwealth Games in 2002. Gold in 2003 Commonwealth Championships
MC Mary Kom (46kg): Women's world champion 2005, 06, 07, 08, 09, 10
Akhil Kumar (bantamweight): Gold in 2005 Commonwealth Championships, gold in 2006 SAF Games, gold in 2006 Commonwealth Games, quarterfinals at 2008 Beijing Olympics
Thokchom Nanao Singh (light flyweight): First gold medallist at the World Youth Boxing Championships in 2008, gold at 2008 World Youth Commonwealth Games, silver at 2009 Asian Championships
Vijender Singh (middleweight): Bronze in 2006 Asian Games, Silver in 2006 Commonwealth Games, Bronze in 2008 Beijing Olympics, Bronze in 2009 World Championships
Suranjoy Singh (flyweight): took first gold in 15 years at the 2009 Asian Boxing Championships, bronze in 2004 World Juniors
Vikas Krishan (lightweight): World youth boxing champion in 2010, bronze at 2011 World Championships in Baku
Shiva Thapa (flyweight): Silver at Youth World Championship in 2010