Indian boxers return from Cuba with medals, added confidence

New Delhi: The training-cum-competition trip to Cuba turned out to be rewarding for Indian boxers in more
ways than one.

They did not just fetch a rich haul of eight silver and
three bronze medals, the 13 boxers also got a chance to
interact with three-time Olympic and six-time world champion
-- the legendary Felix Savon Fabre.

The pugilists who touched down in the capital in the wee
hours this morning after spending almost a fortnight in Cuba
felt the trip made them psychologically stronger and gave them
the confidence of being just as good as any top boxing nation
in the world.

"There was a time the word Cuba meant intimidation but
not anymore. They seem to be just like any other good boxing
nation," said a beaming national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.

"The combined training helped our boys` morale. They are
a lot more confident," added India`s Cuban coach Blas Iglesias

Commonwealth champions Amandeep Singh (48kg), Suranjoy
Singh (51kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg) and Dinesh Kumar were among
those who made the finals of the six-team competition in which
India finished second overall behind the hosts in Havana.

"Training and competing in Cuba is always good ahead of a
big event. In this case, it was a build-up for the
Commonwealth Games and we have come back menatlly tougher
after training," said Commonwealth Games gold medallist Akhil
Kumar (57kg).

The medals apart, Indians were also flaunting pictures
taken with Savon, who was there at the Institute where they
were training during the trip, and said the imposing former
heavy weight boxer bowled them over with his down to earth

"A man who has been a six-time world champion, a
three-time Olympic champion, a living legend was so humble. It
was just amazing to spend time with him. He even came with us
during the bus journey from Havana to Guantanamo," said Akhil,
who settled for a bronze in the tournament after deciding to
give a walkover in the semifinals due to pain in his wrist.

Suranjoy, on the other hand, got a few tips from the
over-six-feet-tall 42-year-old Cuban, who never took to
professional boxing despite his stupendous success at the
amateur level.

"Since I am not too tall, Felix told me to keep a close
guard and work on my movement. It was very nice of him to
spend time with us. We have grown up up watching him," said
the Manipuri, whose loss in the final to a Cuban boxer was
adjudged the best bout of the tournament.

Savon retired from international boxing after the Sydney
Olympics in 2000, where he won his third consecutive gold in
the quadrennial extravaganza.

South Asian Games gold medallist Chhote Lal Yadav, who
fetched a silver, felt the toughest part of the trip was all
the travelling involved.

"Frankly training and competing there was not all that
tough. The long journey that we endured was tougher," he said.

Dinesh, who travelled to Cuba for the first time in his
career, said the trip has made him a better boxer.

"For the first time in my career, I competed against an
Australian boxer and obviously fighting against a Cuban rival
is always tough but ultimately it helpd your game. I liked my
opponent`s foot movement. I think I am a better boxer after
this trip," said the 23-year-old, who settled for silver after
getting a cut on his upper lip in the final.



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