Indian pugilists head to Czech Republic

New Delhi: Indian pugilists, including five men and three women, on Monday left to participate in the 43rd Boxing Grand Prix scheduled to be held at Usti nad Labem, Czech Republic from March 21 to 25. The tournament, organised by Czech Boxing Association, will witness over 130 boxers from around 20 countries vying for top honours.

India coach GS Sandhu believes the tournament will draw good boxers from the Asian and European region and would be a good exposure for the selected boxers.

"This is be a build up tournament to the London Olympics and we are expecting to encounter good competition. We are not looking to win laurels at this point, Olympics is our main goal and we are looking to get as much competition experience as possible before the main event," he said.

Talking about the team composition, the Dronacharya Awardee coach said: "Three of our Olympic qualified boxers are participating in the event along with two other boxers who have already been selected to compete in the Asian Olympic Qualifying tournament (That is slated to be held in Astana, Kazakhstan from April 4, April 13, 2012).

"This will be a good opportunity for them to access the level of competition as quite a few of the boxers, who have already made it to the Olympics, are likely to come to the Czech Republic."

India`s emerging boxer Vikas Krishan (69kg), who bagged a bronze medal at the AIBA World championship along with an Olympic quota, will lead the Indian attack in the Bohemian land. The 2010 Asian Games Gold medallist said that the tournament would be a preparatory event.

"Participating in international competition is the best way to prepare and this competition will be a good way to get more exposure and match practice and get ready for the London Olympics," he said.

The "Usti Nad Labem Grand Prix" would be Vikas`s second competition after his bronze medal winning performance in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The 20-year-old also participated in the London Boxing International Invitational tournament, which was held in November last year at the London Olympic boxing venue, where he won the silver medal. The 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Manoj Kumar (64kg) will also be seen in action Czech Republic, making his first international appearance after clinching an Olympic quota at the AIBA World championship in September last year.

"Olympics is the main event, these tournaments are just a means to an end. This is going to be my first tournament in six months. I have trained hard and practiced to fight a more composed and accurate bout; this event will help me put the techniques that I have learnt into practice," he said.

Jai Bhagwan (60kg) is the third Olympic-bound Indian. Like Manoj, Jai would also be playing his first tournament after the AIBA World championship. The Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist also has similar expectation from this tour and hopes to get more experience before the Olympics. Youngsters Shiva Thapa (56kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) complete the five-member Indian men`s team for the event.

In the women`s division of the Grand Prix, Asian Games bronze medallist Kavita Goyat (75kg) will spearhead the Indian team, also comprising Van Lal Duati (51kg) and Preeti Beniwal (60kg). The Grand Prix will provide a good opportunity for the Indian girls to get match fit and into a good rhythm before the selection trials for the AIBA Women`s World Championship, which will also act as the only qualifier in women`s boxing, for the London Olympiad.