Cuban Coach Fernandez Advocates for Trials in Indian Boxing Selection

Cuban Coach Fernandez Advocates for Trials in Indian Boxing Selection

Cuban boxing coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez, a veteran of three decades in Indian boxing, has expressed his support for the Boxing Federation of India’s (BFI) decision to revert to trials for boxer selection. Fernandez, who has witnessed the highs and lows of Indian boxing, believes that trials are a fairer and more transparent method.

Fernandez, who has been appointed as the high-performance coach for the National Boxing Academy (NBA) in Rohtak, criticized the previous evaluation-based selection system implemented by former High Performance Director Bernard Dunne. He argued that the evaluation method was “needless” and did not provide a complete picture of a boxer’s abilities.

“We must return to the system of trials, it was more fair and transparent and left no scope for ambiguity,” Fernandez said. “Given a chance, I would like to propose some changes to the selection criteria. We need to ditch the system of evaluation as it doesn’t present a complete picture.”

Fernandez, the only foreigner to receive the Dronacharya Award for coaching excellence, expressed surprise that Dunne was given a free hand to implement his selection policy. He believes that Dunne’s changes were not in the best interests of Indian boxing.

“He took over the reins when India was among the top 15-20 nations in men’s boxing. He came in and went about changing everything, which is not the way to go. I am surprised he was allowed to do this. The policy of no selection trials looks good on paper but practically it means nothing. The No.3 boxer can become No.1 in this process,” Fernandez said.

Fernandez is now focused on preparing a plan for the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics. He believes that widening the core group by adding more youth boxers is crucial for creating a strong supply line.

“That’s how you create a supply line,” he reasoned. “As of now, the senior camp has three boxers per weight class and Fernandez wants to double that. I have started the phase of talent identification for 2028. We need more age-group events and more youth boxers in NBA. Ideally, we need 4-6 boxers in each weight category.”

Fernandez backed former world No.1 Amit Panghal to win a medal in Paris if he qualifies. “I think Amit and Nishant Dev have the best chance to qualify. Amit is a medal contender since he is very sharp at reading opponents. He is mature and has a good all-round game. Amit and (woman’s world champion) Nikhat Zareen are what I call universal boxers. If they are in form, they can come back with a medal from Paris.”

Boxing Legend Venkatesan Devarajan Eyes Indian Boxing Team Coaching Role

Boxing Legend Venkatesan Devarajan Eyes Indian Boxing Team Coaching Role

Former Indian boxing legend Venkatesan Devarajan, who holds the distinction of being the first Indian boxer to secure a World Cup medal on foreign soil, has expressed his keen interest in assuming the coaching reins of the Indian boxing team. This development comes in the wake of the team’s High Performance Director, Bernard Dunne, tendering his resignation following the team’s dismal performance at the recent Olympic qualifiers in Italy.

India’s boxers failed to secure a single quota for the Paris Olympics at the world qualifiers, leaving only four Indian women boxers who have earned their spots through the Asian Games. With just two months remaining before the final Olympic qualifiers in Thailand on May 23, Indian boxing finds itself in a precarious position.

While Dunne’s resignation has been accepted, foreign coach Dmitry Dmitruk, who was brought in by Dunne, is also expected to be relieved of his duties. With four months to go until the Paris Olympics, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) is likely to turn to Indian coaches to guide the team through these turbulent waters. A BFI executive committee meeting has been scheduled for Friday to deliberate on this matter.

“I am eager to impart my knowledge and experience to the team. If the BFI grants me the opportunity, I would be honored to assist the team. I intend to engage in discussions with the BFI,” stated Devarajan, who clinched a bronze medal at the 1994 World Cup in Thailand. Devarajan represented India at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics (bantamweight) and served on the BFI’s selection panel for an extended period.

“Boxing is not merely a physical endeavor; at the elite level, it also becomes a mental game. Strategy, meticulous planning, and mental fortitude are paramount in boxing. When competing at the Olympic level, boxers must maintain emotional composure within the ring,” emphasized Devarajan, an Arjuna Awardee who coached the World Boxing Series team Mumbai Fighters, which featured several international boxers.

During his prime, Chennai-based Devarajan garnered two medals at the prestigious Cuba International Boxing Meet, Kings Cup, and President’s Cup. He holds the distinction of defeating Mongolian professional boxer Lakva Sim, a world champion in two weight classes, on three separate occasions.

“I have had the privilege of training with the world-renowned Cuban team in Bangalore in 1991 and subsequently traveled to Cuba for further training. I possess the experience of competing at the highest level and preparing boxers for elite competitions. I am well-versed in the strengths and weaknesses of our boxers. In recent years, our boxers have adopted a uniform style against all opponents. We must employ diverse strategies and techniques based on the strengths and weaknesses of our opponents,” asserted Devarajan, who believes that selection trials are crucial for assessing form and fitness.

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