New Delhi: There is excitement among women boxers but an air of trepidation has crept into the men's camp after the IOC decided to increase weight categories for women and drop two divisions from the men's event of the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The rejigging, aimed at increasing gender parity in the Games, will see women boxers in five weight categories -- 51kg, 57kg, 60kg, 69kg and 75kg -- taking part in the 2020 Olympics.
The expansion for women has forced a cutdown in the men's competition with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) ruling that there would be eight, instead of the current 10, weight categories in the Tokyo roster.
The two men's weight categories, which will be dropped, have not yet been finalised.
"It is a good decision and gives us a lot of room as far as a shot at medals is concerned. Girls, who were straining themselves to fit into the previous three weight categories can now ease up a bit and make it in their natural weight categories," chief coach for women Gurbax Singh Sandhu told PTI.
"India will definitely benefit from this as women's boxing is continuing to grow in the country," added the veteran coach, who is currently administering a national camp in Rohtak.
However, just over a 150km away from Rohtak, recently- appointed men's foreign coach Santiago Nieva reacted with apprehension in Patiala.
The idea of losing out on two weight categories for men isn't particularly pleasing, said Nieva, even though he is happy to see women's boxing rise in stature.
"Strictly from the perspective of being the men's coach, this is a body blow. We don't yet know which two weight categories are being dropped but imagine if it is a strong one for us," said the Argentina-born Swede, who is also a member of the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) coaches commission.
"I didn't expect two weight categories to be dropped, I was hoping they would drop one. But it's good for women, I am happy they are getting their due. But let's see how things shape up finally," he added.
In fact, his position of being an AIBA coaches commission member means that Nieva will be among those whose views will be counted in finalising the Tokyo2020 boxing competition by sport's governing body.
"The AIBA has a meeting in late July when probably we would know about the men's categories. The various commissions will give their view on it and that's how things will be finalised," he explained.
The women boxers are obviously excited even though for a certain M C Mary Kom, the IOC decision means that her preferred weight category of 48kg could not make the cut.
"I can adjust to this. For now I will be competing in the 48kg category because my plan is finalised for the Asian Championships this year and the Commonwealth Games next year. But yes, the IOC has taken a decision and we will have to go by it, so I will make adjustments," said the five-time world champion, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP.
Indian boxing's recently-appointed government observer, Akhil Kumar, a former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist, feels women's boxing deserves expansion.
"But the IOC should increase the number of medals so that men's competition is not curtailed. After all the Olympic spirit is about participation, isn't it? More medals, greater participation, who knows that could even mean greater world peace because then rival countries can settle some scores in the sporting arena instead of war-field," he quipped.
The AIBA, on its part, has welcomed the move and has vowed to ensure that there is no drop in the number of boxers competing at the Games.
"AIBA's next step is to convene the expertise of its relevant Commissions in the coming days and open discussions regarding the optimum ways of adapting the competition structure to incorporate these changes.
"The Commissions' findings will then be presented to the AIBA Executive Committee at its annual meeting in late July," the world body said in a statement.
Updated Date: Jun 12, 2017 20:09 PM