New Delhi: Professional boxing has been slow to take off in India but the country can expect to have its first world champion in the circuit within the next four years, feels World Boxing Council's (WBC) Asia secretary General Patrick Cusick.
Here to supervise the WBC welterweight Asia title contest between defending champion Neeraj Goyat and Australian Ben Kite on Saturday, Cusick said India is growing well after being slow off the blocks.
"I think within the next four years there would a world champion from India. I am confident because of the weight of numbers. The number of people here, once they realise they can be pro fighters there could be 100,000 fighters here. Of these, probably 10 are going to be really good and will be able to go and become world champions," Cusick told PTI on the sidelines of the official face-off and weigh-in of the two fighters here in New Delhi.
Goyat, who has seven wins from 11 pro fights, had won the title last year in a bout conducted in Delhi and Cusick said the time gap of a year in the title defence was due to the logistics.
"The first one is always the hardest. It was difficult to do the first one. The second one took a little bit of time to get organised because they (the Professional Boxing Organisation of India) needed to get to the next level of organisation," said Cusick, who is also a member of the WBC Board of Governors.
"But now I expect they would be doing one in every three months. We did expect for things to take time because we needed to find out what we need to do," he added.
Cusick said professional boxing in India is at the same stage as it was 10 years ago in China. But now the Asian giants have a WBO world champion in Zou Shiming (flyweight).
"There hasn't ever been any pro boxing in India until two years ago. So it's a lot like China 10 years ago. It has taken 8 years for pro boxing to become big in China. It would take another couple of years for pro boxing to be big here. The structure is in place and now the progress will be fast," he said.
"Look at China, one rose up from there and I expect fighters will rise from here too," he added.
Speaking of the sport in general, Cusick acknowledged that boxing remains a dangerous sport despite safeguards in place.
In fact, the sport has hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently with the very public meltdown of world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, who admitted to cocaine abuse and suicidal thoughts. Fury eventually vacated his titles before his license was suspended.
"There is always close examination of head injuries because in boxing you get hit on the head a lot, which can cause concussions and mental problems. The referee stops the contest much quicker these days, we are always checking in between rounds to ensure the well being of boxers," he said explaining what is being done to tackle mental issues faced by the boxers.
"All these measures are there to reduce mental problems for the boxers. But this is also a fact that every time you step into the ring, you are threatened with death. It's a combat sport. Mental problems are there around the world, not just boxing," he added.