Mumbai: India`s lone boxing franchise Mumbai Fighters is ready with its line-up of Indian and international pugilists in a 17-strong squad for the USD five million World Series of Boxing commencing November 11 here.
Apart from Akhil Kumar, a 2006 Commonwealth Games gold winner, Jitender Kumar, a bronze medal winner in the Melbourne CWG as well as the 2008 AIBA World Cup, and three-time national champion Diwakar Prasad, the squad consists of ten other Indian boxers and four foreigners, it was announced on Friday.
Notable among other Indians who will parade their wares in the colours of the Mumbai Fighters are former World Cadet champion Balbir Singh (bantam) of Delhi and 2007 junior world champion Vipin Kumar (bantam).
The other Indian boxers in the squad, who will open their campaign at home in Pune`s Balewadi against Italian franchise Milano Thunder on November 11, are: Gaurav Bidhuri (bantam), Siddharth Varma (light), Mandeep Jangra, Vijay Hooda (middle), Jasveer Singh, Rahul Kumar (light heavy), Krishan Kumar and Sumit Rangi (heavy).
The four foreign recruits are: Patrick Gallagher (Ireland, middle), Marko Calic (Croatia, light heavy), Paul Koon (US) and Trent Rawlins (Australia), both heavyweight boxers.
The WSB is a competition in which boxers would fight without headguards and vests, with professional-style scoring, three judges and one referee and one supervisor.
A WSB match consists of five bouts, with each bout consisting of five rounds of three minutes each. The team with most wins from five bouts wins the match.
"We will progress and are fully ready for the championship," said Akhil, who is yet to book his berth for next year`s London Olympic Games.
Akhil said that fighting without headgear was not an issue to him as he pointed out that injuries in football were more than in the ring sport.
"I love Bollywood and want to try my stint in it. But anyway I would dance in the ring (Bollywood-style)," said cricket-loving Australian heavyweight boxer Trent Rawlins, who is a fan of spin legend Shane Warne and former world professional heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield.
"I am a Christian (believer) and Holyfield is also a Christian like me. The other boxer I admire is (former world professional heavyweight champion) George Foreman," said Australia-born Rawlins who is of mixed parentage (West Indian father and South African mother).
Rawlins said he wanted to come to India and that`s why he joined the Mumbai Fighters team after being with the Miami franchise in the inaugural WSB last year.
Team`s chief coach Joe Clough said that the squad has been in training for a month now and has shown a 50 per cent improvement in skills.
Kishen Narsi, secretary of the AIBA`s Technical and Rules Commission, said that the 12-team WSB has opened up a new avenue for Indian boxing and boxers.
"Boxing is set to become a big name as a sport throughout the country. The boxers would enhance their skills besides earning good money too," he said.
Asked about the absence of star boxer and Beijing Olympics bronze winner Vijender Singh, Jay Kowli, joint secretary of the Indian Boxing Federation, said that there are only five categories in this championship and Vijender`s category fell in between two nominated weight divisions.
He further said that two other top Indian boxers – Vikas Krishan and Manoj Kumar - were interested in taking part but because of their other commitments they were not available this year.
"They said they would like to participate next year," he added.
Team Principal Udit Seth of TransStadia India said that the franchisee aims to spend Rs 50-60 crore over the next five years.
"The boxers would earn between USD 2000 and 6000 per month as per AIBA set standards. We got only 45 days to get together the team. The first three matches would be held at Pune`s Balewadi (Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex). We are trying to hold some matches in Mumbai which currently does not have a top class boxing arena," he said.
Narsi said AIBA was eager to protect the boxers` interest at all costs.
"No franchisee would be allowed to take undue advantage of the boxers," he said.
"The teams would be divided into two groups and the top four from each group would advance into the quarter finals, followed by the semi finals and the final which would be held in March, 2012," Narsi said.