Brigadier PKM Raja has been involved with Indian sports for a long time in some really important roles like Secretary General of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, Deputy & then Acting Chef De Mission for London 2012 Summer Games, and many other capacities. He came up with Indian Boxing Council to facilitate the boxers who want to try their hand in the professional circuit. We interviewed Brigadier Raja about Indian Boxing Council, Pro-boxing in India, the pro-boxing event planned on April 23, 2016 and related topics. Here is an excerpts:
About Indian Boxing Council and the changes it brought to Indian Pro-boxing arena…
a)The Indian Boxing Council (IBC) is a National governing body that sanctions professional boxing matches and awards national and subordinate championship titles. Further, the IBC will also host a number of Asian and World title fights in near future which would open immense opportunities for young Indian Boxers who are devoid of any recognition in the current amateur set up. Its main function is to promote and serve the sport of professional boxing in India, and to implement its own fair, scientific, independent and objective computerized rankings system for the ratings of professional boxers and to establish uniform safety measures and uniform procedures for the protection of professional boxers as well as the conduct of championship matches.
b)The Indian Boxing Council (IBC) has its own authority to regulate, control and supervise the conduct of sanctioned matches in its own jurisdictions, throughout India, and implementing fairness and equal opportunities at all times, impartially, honestly and fairly to everybody, with its own juridical personality and fiscal autonomy, having jurisdiction and competence over all affiliated Units and Licensees that are part relevant.
c)The IBC has been a catalyst for firing the imagination of young and talented Indian boxers to dream of winning name, fame, honor and financial rewards by pursuing the exciting and explosive viewer friendly sport that beckons them. IBC has created a conducive atmosphere and an eco system for Pro Boxers to be identified, trained and given opportunities to prove their mettle in the Ring.
d)IBC is also a platform for individual entrepreneurs, corporates, business houses, sponsors and advertisers wanting to gain visibility and popularity in India and in the International Market with extensive marketing and branding opportunities as Title Sponsors, or Gold Sponsors or Silver Sponsors of the IBC Fight Cards which would showcase National Titles / Asian Titles and World Title Fights of IBC as well as International Boxing Bodies such as the World Boxing Organisation (WBO), World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC), International Boxing Federation (IBF), Commonwealth Boxing Council (CBC) and so on.
Vision of the organization and how the Council plans to achieve its mission of supporting professional boxing in India…
Indian Boxing Council’s (IBC’s) vision is to support, inspire and motivate Indian Professional Boxers to be capable of winning Asian Titles in two years’ time, be in the top ten World rankings in five years’ time and become World Champions in seven years’ time.
b)Mission: The IBC plans to achieve the above mission by conducting training sessions for boxers and coaches with world class Pro Boxing Coaches (Joe Clough who has produced two Olympic Gold Medalists for USA in 1972 and 1976 and was Head Coach of Muhammad Ali Team and then trained a large number renowned Pro Boxers around the World has been hired as Technical Director IBC). IBC Fight Cards for National Titles in all weight categories will be conducted regularly in all parts of India in addition to bouts for Zonal and City Titles. Ranking and rating of boxers will be displayed on our website and would encourage boxers to be in the top ten in the country before making attempts at Asian Titles and above. Fight Cards for Asian Titles / World Titles of other Organizations and undercard Fights will be staged at regular intervals by IBC in different parts of India. IBC will encourage active participation by Promoters from India as well as Foreign Countries to promote and develop the sport of Pro Boxing in India to world standards. IBC will strive to ensure that all IBC Fight Cards as well as those at Zonal and City Titles are telecast live on major TV Networks to make the boxers heroes and household names in times to come.
Some consistently performing boxers who can go places in professional boxing…
There are plenty of outstanding boxers with National and International excellence who have joined the Pro ranks of IBC and will be seen in IBC Fight Cards. Many more current amateur boxers who are preparing for Rio Olympics have expressed their desire to turn Professionals after the Games.
Women’s Pro Boxing will be started in India by IBC after the Rio Olympics. However, registrations and other formalities for the Women will commence from July 2016.
Has the Indian Pro-Boxing got major boost with Vijender Singh turning professional boxer? In what way if you can explain?
Yes, Indian Pro Boxing certainly has got a major boost with Vijender turning Professional. Although initially Vijender had to bear the brunt of sarcastic, snide remarks and ridicule by many people in India who criticized his move as that of a mercenary, all of them have gradually come to terms with the fact that Vijender is a Star by himself and his performances in the Ring as a Pro have been electrifying and followed by millions in India and around the world. His critics have also turned around and become his fans and watch all his Fights on TV without fail. Thus Vijender has helped in Pro Boxing being accepted as a sport in India as Indians had only known of Amateur Boxing for the past five decades. India has now started dreaming and visualizing that we will have World Champions of the caliber of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather in the near future.
How are the facilities compared to other countries? What are the changes that IBC is trying to bring in to make it better? How are these facilities different from amateur boxing?
As compared to other countries our facilities are inadequate. We do not have sufficient Boxing Gyms / Boxing Clubs in India.
IBC proposes to request the Government of India to extend the 75:25 Scheme which is presently available for Amateur Federations only, to IBC also once AIBA announces its doors are open for Pro Boxers to participate in Olympics. If this facility is made available to IBC and Pro Boxing, we propose to facilitate Boxing Clubs / Gyms across the country with procurement of Boxing Rings / Boxing Equipment such as Gloves, Training Equipment etc on a nominal payment. The training Gyms for Amateur and Pro Boxing are generally the same and not much different except in the size of the Boxing Ring and the size of the Boxing Gloves, bandages etc.
It is said that major happenings bring some drastic upgrades in terms of facilities & sports infrastructures. Any big stage tournament that you think can be brought in India for the purpose?
Absolutely true. Probably, Vijender’s proposed WBO Asia Title Fight tentatively scheduled for 11 June 2016 at the Indira Gandhi Stadium, New Delhi could be the trendsetter for the massive changes that we are looking forward to. The IBC also plans to bid for other Title Fights of World Sanctioning Bodies such as WBA, WBO, WBC, IBF etc including the Commonwealth Boxing Council (CBC) towards the latter half of 2016 and onwards which would help in creation of facilities and infrastructures across the Country.
What new ideas are brought into the talent identification and management process?
In addition to talent identification during IBC Fight Cards, we propose to send our Talent scouting teams whose Chairman is Mr Devanand, an Arjuna Award Winner and an Asian Medalist himself, to different parts of the country and see the training of boxers at Clubs / Gyms / local tournaments. IBC has its own Sports Testing Lab at Pune and we have the capability to carry out different tests and protocols including Lactate Testing to determine Aerobic and Anaerobic Thresholds of the athlete and know whether the boxer has the potential to become a top class boxer based on his physical parameters. The skills can be developed but the physique and internal test results would determine who can be a Champion.
How effective is the government support in Indian professional boxing? How effective is the corporate support in professional boxing?
As on date there is no government support for Professional Boxing in India.
However with AIBA’s proposal to permit Professional Boxers in the Olympics as well as qualifying Tournaments in the run-up to the Olympics, there is a possibility of the Government of India extending support to Indian Professional Boxing so that the likes of Vijender Singh who is an IBC licensed boxer are eligible to compete and participate in Olympics. Since IBC has recently conducted its First Fight Card IBC-1 on 20 February 2016 with its own financial resources and feedback seems to be positive from the Corporates, it is envisaged that Professional Boxing in India will find big takers amongst Business Houses as it is a viable tool for visibility, branding and PR activities to enhance their name and fame as an Organisation or Product. IBC-2 is around the corner and we are on the lookout for Title Sponsors (1), Gold Sponsors (2) and Silver Sponsors (5).
How easy is it for the Indian professional boxer to get sponsors or other fund support?
As of now, it is very difficult for Pro Boxers to get sponsors or other Fund support. Professional boxing is in its infancy in India and that is why the Indian Boxing Council (IBC) has decided to step in and fulfill the role of a Federation as well as that of a Promoter and finance / conduct / organize the Fight Cards which would otherwise have been done by Promoters. At present there is a dearth of sponsors / fund support for us. However, knowing the glamour quotient and the fact that this is one of the most sought after TV covered spectator friendly sport in the world, we have no doubts that we will have sponsors lining up pretty soon for being associated with brand IBC and Indian Pro Boxing. We are confident that with Live telecast of an IBC Fight Card of 3 hrs duration, there will be plenty of eyeballs for the sponsors in very prominent positions with tremendous visibility and branding opportunities.
Can professional boxing be taken to the schools to attract kids at early stage?
IBC proposes to take Professional Boxing to Schools which will help in the physical and mental upbringing of children. The rules will be modified in such a manner that it would be deemed as a healthy recreational activity for boys and girls and those of them who wish to pursue the sport after the age of 18 yrs will be encouraged to join IBC ranks. It is also felt that the IBC Pro Boxing programme once introduced in Schools will help in self defense capabilities and techniques of the children.
What are the steps required for masses to support the sport in India?
Conduct of regular IBC Fight Cards at National / Zonal / City levels and creation of quality Pro Boxing Fighters capable of winning National and International Titles and become icons and role models for youngsters to emulate. Opening up of Boxing Clubs / Gyms across the Country and introduction of this sport in schools as a Physical Education program. Glamorizing the sport with celebrity participation and mass participation. Winners and outstanding boxers be made popular with regular ranking and rating and their photos and achievements be published in magazines and periodicals regularly.
Will League format be helpful in promoting the sport?
To the best of my knowledge, the League Format has not been successful in Pro Boxing so far, although Don King once attempted a similar exercise but had to abandon it half way through. However, we in IBC are confident that we have the plans, wherewithal, ideas and implementation techniques to ensure a successful League Format of Pro Boxing in India with International Boxers also being in the fray along with their Indian counterparts to be part of Franchise Teams.
About the various programs run by APB which can be utilized to bring forward more professional boxers…
As far as we are aware, APB is a program implemented by AIBA with participation by a handful of selected boxers (80) from across the World. From India, only Vikas Krishan has been selected as part of the AIBA’s Elite APB program which implies that it will never ever promote the concept of Professional Boxers in large numbers.
Thus we don’t see much value in APB programs and would like to concentrate on IBC programs where we try and provide an equal platform and opportunity for those budding hundreds of talented Indian Boxers with potential who wish to chase their dream of becoming a Champion in the Pro Circuit and be a celebrity recognized across the World.
About the event planned on April 23, 2016, its relevance onto the Indian pro-boxing scenario.
We have planned our next Fight Card IBC-2 on 23 April 2016 wherein twenty boxers of National and International repute in Amateur Boxing will be seen in four round contests. There will also be a marquee fight of six rounds amongst two illustrious Indian boxers in the Heavy Weight category. A few of them will be making their debut while the others would be participating in their second Pro bout. Based on the performances on 23 April, some of the boxers whose performances will be closely monitored and evaluated by experts including our Technical Director Joe Clough and Chairman Selection Committee Mr Devanand, will be upgraded to 6 round Fighters. These boxers are then on their way to compete for the dazzling IBC National Title Belts in the seventeen different weight categories once they are capable of becoming eight round Fighters. Hence the 23 April 2016 Fight Card IBC-2 will be the stepping stone for many of the starry eyed Indian Pro Boxing Fighters to emulate and follow the footsteps of their illustrious predecessor Vijender Singh !
(Indian Boxing Council is a formal Indian National body/association which aims to facilitating Indian Professional Boxers with adequate support system. It is brainchild of former Secretary General of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, Brig. PKM Raja who also happens to be the first president of the Council formed on July 8, 2015.)