Shillong: Indian boxers have cut throat competition awaiting them in next month's Olympic qualifying tournament in China and national coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu on Friday said he does not expect more than four to make the cut for Rio.
"I don't want to name anybody but with the new qualification in place, I see four boxers in Olympics this time. It's become very tough now," Sandhu told PTI on the eve of the South Asian Games' competition here.
So far, none has qualified for the Olympics with world No.2 Shiva Thapa (56kg) coming close to it last year before losing in a box-off in the World Championship.
As per the new Olympic qualification rules, Shiva, despite securing a bronze, had to fight against the other losing semifinalist -- Dzmitry Asanau -- in the box-off in Doha.
"Previously one would qualify if you make the quarters in a World Championship. This time even a medallist is not qualified as the world body (AIBA) has trimmed the number of qualifiers," he said referring to Shiva's plight.
Simplifying the new qualification rules, he said: "Earlier the WSB (World Series of Boxing) and AIBA did not have any quota now they have 63 out of 150."
"It's beyond doubt that we will find it hugely tough as only three (from one zone, Asian/Oceania) can qualify for each weight category," he added.
It would become even more challenging for the Indians considering that the national federation is in a mess with an AIBA ad-hoc committee handling the administration.
"I cannot comment on the federation and functioning (of Boxing India). As a coach, my focus is to get maximum qualification from the Olympic qualifying event," he said.
With India fielding a strong 10-member squad for the South Asian Games, he said: "We are very positive of bagging all the 10 gold medals but this sport is very unpredictable. We're keeping our fingers crossed."
"This is one more tournament before the big event and should be a good assessment and exposure for the team," he signed off.