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    Boxing has better chance in the Commonwealth Games

    September 07, 2019

    The Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) has launched a multi-pronged strategy to identify talent and groom future medal prospects with accent on youth by providing them international exposure in European and regional competitions with an eye on the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.“More than 2024 (Paris Olympics), I am looking at Commonwealth Games. We have already had a success in 2010 although with a doping incident. In 2018 we have been able to get three medals after 68 years. Although the competition is very high, we are still within the best seven countries in the Commonwealth Games outof the 60 countries which I think take part at the Commonwealth Games. So we have a better chance in the Commonwealth Games. So my whole emphasis will be the Commonwealth Games and a qualification for the Olympics. That’s the kind of plan,” BASL president Dian Gomes said in a comprehensive interview with the Daily News.

    “Everything which is geared for it starts now. We started with the schoolboys. First the team went to Kuwait. We wanted to test at the Asian level which was very tough, how the schoolboys fare. So that has been the first stage. We have seen other than one boxer, everybody fighting fairly well. Next, we sent two other teams for the Indonesian President’s Cup and also for a tough Thai Open tournament. We were not successful in Thailand but in Indonesia we managed to bag two bronze medals,” he said.

    “We wanted to focus in the lower weights. It has always been our strategy - the first four weights – to win medals at the Asian or Commonwealth Games level. We have a very few chance in the heavier weight categories in the world because of our DNA, because of our build and because of the punching power of the Cubans and the Russians. So that’s the kind of a holistic view the plans that we have,” he pointed out.

    “Also at the same time we have been focusing on getting our officials accredited in the AIBA (world body) arena. We have five 3-star judges, couple of 2-star and three 1-star. Our officials are fairly recognized now. We have about five ITOs (international technical officials) as well plus six doctors. So actually our officials have done better than the boxers. Our administrative side, on the official side is very strong both locally and internationally. On the coaching side, we have about three 3-star coaches and another four 2-star. So that side is completely taken care of,” he said.

    “Next comes the youth team. That we have tried at the school level. We want the youth also to take part internationally. Sri Lanka has never been exposed at age 15-16 or 17-18 because of lot of restrictions in the schools and the funding requirement. There is zero funding at the moment for both the schools association and even for the ABA (BASL) from the government which has been very difficult for us to manage the boxing financially which is totally on private funding. Corporate sponsors and individual donors have been keeping our 15 million-rupee budget which is insignificant relative to other sports, to keep the whole sport going administratively. But we have still been taking part internationally with our own funding,” said Gomes who revealed that they would be taking part in two international tournaments in Europe next month.

    “We are sending a five-member women’s for the Eindhoven Cup in Holland and also sending a four-member men’s to Poland in October,” said the boxing chief who seriously believes Sri Lanka has the capacity to produce another Olympian after Anuruddha Ratnayake.

    Olympic medallists

    “I think so because if you take the first three or four weights, over a period of say next six years, I am sure if we put the focus that we did for Rathnayake, we would be able to easily produce somebody like that. It’s a focus and the long-term journey which would sustain producing Olympic medallists. Unfortunately the clubs and people on the ground level want quick results. That doesn’t work in getting Olympic or the Commonwealth medals,” said Gomes who acknowledged however, that the standard of boxing at the Layton Cup was not awe-inspiring.

    “I was also very disappointed with the standard of boxing other than for very few fights. We also realize in the first four weight categories, still there is a better standard for two reasons. One is people who fight for lower weights have already boxed for schools. So they come up with a fundamental technical knowledge of boxing while the heavier weights which start boxing at the latter stage like in the Forces, do not have the technique but they tend to fight. So it’s like a pole position - they have the guts and the fitness but they fight not box while at the lower weights they have more technique,” he pointed out.

    “That is the reason we are concentrating more on the lower weights, the first four weights in which the competition is very high. Also there seems to be in the first three weight categories (light fly, fly and feather) good competition between the four contenders from different clubs. So that will keep the momentum going while our strategy is also not to invest on one person in the weight category but to have two people invested in the weight category in the first three weights. On the women’s side, we see potential in two weight categories (light fly and fly weight) which is the best two weight categories for us but we are at the moment concentrating even on the weight category of 75kg (middle weight) because it is an Olympic weight. Out of that we feel there might be fewer contenders in Asia in the 75kg weight category but not in the European weight. This time we are exposing our 75kg champion from Police Purnima Jayasuriya at the Eindhoven cup to test the waters,” he said.

    The Eindhoven Box Cup International Boxing Tournament is scheduled to be held from October 16 to 21 in Eindhoven, Netherlands, while the VII Leszek Drogosz Memorial International Boxing Tournament will be held from October 20 to 26 in Kielce, Poland.

    Scientific boxing

    Asked whether scientific boxing is a lost art in Sri Lanka because of the win at any cost mentality of coaches, he concurred: “Yes. Although we have been able to produce several 3-star boxing coaches unfortunately all three are not coaching at the moment. Pujitha Mendis is in United States, Harsha Kumara, our former national coach has been sidelined, Amila Aravinda is managing only a school, Wasantha Kumara who was our Olympic coach has left the boxing arena for the last couple of years. Our critical four 3-star coaches have completely moved out from boxing. Then our former national coach (R.K.) Indrasena has been an AIBA coach and is actually coaching other countries but not involved in the local coaching scene. So we have five of our best guys not in the scene. That leaves us with few other coaches. And they are more interested in not producing a Sri Lankan medallist but winning championships. The mentality of the Forces and the individual clubs is to win championships rather than win international medals,” said Gomes.

    National pool

    Asked whether a national pool has been formed and a coach appointed in preparation for the South Asian Games (SAG), he said: “We have already executed it. The women’s team consisting of four members from Slimline, Police and Air Force, they would train at Pannala because the majority of the facilities are there. I have requested MAS Holdings to support us with the women’s team while we are requesting the Sri Lanka Army to have the men based in either Panagoda or Diyathalawa. For SAG we will have a full team but we are still not 100 per cent sure of the dates for the SAG which has been postponed about three times. We are training ourselves for the 2020 Olympic calendar.”

    Gomes is also keen to rebrand school boxing and revive the glory days of the Colombo schools and popularize the sport.

    “I want to refocus on two areas. The best talent has come from the most underprivileged schools in the rural areas. They are the future medal winners but to popularise more boxing in Colombo with the more affluent schools which has over a 100 years of boxing history like Royal, Trinity and S. Thomas’, we are trying our best to have a triangular meet by the end of the year. That is to popularise and bring boxing to the old glory in the Colombo schools. There are some other Colombo schools also fighting in the Stubbs Shield with skeleton teams like Nalanda, Ananda and St. Joseph’s.”

    However, he stressed that the BASL emphasis will be on coaching and giving the facilities for the rural areas.

    “Last year for about 15 schools we gave the gloves and other equipment as well to promote boxing. We have seen the results very fast because in rural areas, life is harder and boxing is a natural sport with the least amount of investment, especially in the North. We have seen some results with these schools winning at the L.V. Jayaweera and T.B. Jayah meets,” said a Gomes, a product of Royal College.

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