The name Vijaya Nadar did not ring a bell and since her e-mail subject line said ‘Hello’, I instinctively wanted to delete the mail, thinking it was another spam mail. But my curiosity was aroused when I noticed that the author had obviously had only clicked on the Reply All option in one of her own mails, edited the subject and sent a whole lot of people an anguished note.
A freelance journalist, she wrote about an incident in the Federation Cup being held at Jangaon, not far from Hyderabad, from April 24 to April 28. She said that a quarterfinal bout in the 81kg class had been rigged to favour Andhra Pradesh boxer B Srinivas aka Raju against Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist Satender Kumar (Railways) since the home boxer is the son of AP Boxing Association. Joint Secretary Mr. Bal Raj.
Even though she was not an eye-witness, she had found out and described in graphic detail how the bout had been rigged. She suggested that the judges turned a blind eye to the punches that Satender landed and lights were switched off when a knockout seemed imminent in the second round. And when the home boxer landed one punch in the third round, the buzzer signalled the end of the bout, even though only one minute had passed.
Her mail also claimed Mr. Bal Raj had announced before the start of the bout that he had organised the tournament for his son’s benefit and that he had already spent Rs 10 lakh.
Interestingly, Indian Boxing Federation’s Secretary-General Col PK Muralidhar Raja was quick to conduct a preliminary inquiry and sent a reply to everyone Vijaya had mailed. He said that the boxers punches were not clear or hard enough for the judges to award them points in the first two rounds of the bout and in the third round, Srinivas landed one clear punch which was accepted by the judges as a legitimate blow and he received the point.
He said he had spoken to the Jury Members as well as the Railways team manager Ajit Chaudhary and coach Lalit Prasad. All of them told him that the bout was close and that Satender Kumar lost because he did not play his usual game. Col Raja said the Railway coach had told him that Satender was swinging wildly as he was wanting to knock his opponent out but did not connect his punches.
The IBF Secretary-General quoted the Railway coach and said Satender was cautioned by the Referee for landing foul blows. He said the coach also clarified that there was power failure during other bouts as well. And he said the Jury Members and Railways coach had told him that there was nothing wrong in the duration of rounds. Col. Raja also pointed out that Srinivas won his semifinal against Virender Singh (Punjab) on points 5:1.
That is the official position – and we shall accept that, even if we do not agree with it. In my younger days when I played basketball, I saw some forms of bribery and manipulation to back the theory that this quarterfinal bout could have been rigged to favour the home boxer. And in my days as a journalist, I have become more aware of such possibilities.
Vijaya’s effort reminded me of Andrew Jennings’s campaign against corruption in the International Olympic Committee, including one of its members answering to the name of Anwar Chowdhry. The long-serving International Amateur Boxing Association President was accused of being one of the most corrupt sports officials.
Long after Chowdhry was unseated, no less a person than AIBA Secretary-General Caner Doganeli said the Pakistani’s manipulations during his tenure as AIBA chief helped his country win laurels and cited its dismal performance in the Doha Asian Games in 2006 to bolster his claims of corruption.
The scandals surfaced from the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul when a Pakistan boxer, Hussain Ali Shah, became the first from his country to win an Olympic medal. Jennings wrote of how some fights in every World Championship and Olympic Games were rigged so that officials could go back home and speak of how their boxers achieved succeess.
In 2004, Chowdhry was openly accused by a coach from Thailand of switching scores in a pre-Olympic event in Karachi to favour a home boxer. Why, our own Jitender Kumar was said to have expressed doubts about his quaterfinal bout with Nauman Karim in the 2006 Asian Games in Doha if Chowdhry were present in the arena as Asian Amateur Boxing Federation President.
Sport – and I mean all sport – needs to retain its purity at all levels if we are to draw the young to pursue it as a career. We must encourage our young to showcase their own strengths and allow them to discover their own shortcomings, goad them to work on the limitations and watch them conquer new frontiers. Is it vain and foolish to dream such a dream?