New Delhi: In a sporting season dominated by cricket so far, the boxers are set to be back in action for India with six of them heading off to Belgrade, Serbia for an International Tournament where the country has been invited for the first time.
The team may not feature a certain Vijender Singh but it does have a couple of Commonwealth Games gold medallists in Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91kg) and Asian Games silver-winner Manpreet Singh (91kg).
Multiple-time national champion Kuldeep Singh (75kg) and rookies Shiva Thapa (56kg) and Mandeep Jangra (69kg) are the other members of the team which would be presenting India`s challenge in a competition which would feature boxers from traditional powerhouses such as Russia and Kazakhstan.
The tournament is part of the build-up program that the Indian Boxing Federation has laid out for the Olympic qualifiers that start later this year.
"It is about testing the talent that we have at hand so that the best possible boys are ready for the Olympics. Results and medals don`t matter much here but we certainly don`t want to come back empty-handed," coach Jaidev Bisht said ahead of the team`s departure.
Of the six going for the event, Shiva and Mandeep would be making their senior international debut. The 17-year-olds have had a good track record in the junior and youth level events.
Shiva is, in fact, a silver-medallist from the Youth World Championships and a bronze-winner from the inaugural Youth Olympics.
"We are not nervous, we are more excited about our international debut at the senior level. There is hardly any pressure on us," said Assam teen Shiva, who won a silver at the National Games in February.
The tournament also offers a chance for the boxers to get acclimatised with the new scoring pattern in which every point given by all five judges would be taken into account.
"Earlier it was about three judges pressing the buzzer at the same time for a boxer to fetch a point. Now every point given by all five judges would be taken into account. This would ensure that boxers don`t become too defensive after getting one or two points," said Bisht.
"This is good for our boxers because they like to attack but still having adjusted to the earlier pattern, they will have to make some changes to make sure that they benefit from this change of pattern. That will take a some time but not much," he added.
For Manoj and Samota, who also won a bronze in the Asian Games last year, an international competition comes after a lengthy break but the duo said it has done them good as they are free of all the niggles that were bothering them.
"It is quite beneficial because such a break helps recovery from minor injuries that an athlete carries almost all the time," said Manoj.