Indian boxing’s rise in the 21st century has been nothing short of remarkable.
From Mary Kom and Vijender Singh to Amit Panghal and Lovlina Borgohain, India has been consistently producing top class boxing talents in recent years.
India’s journey towards becoming a global powerhouse in boxing, however, hasn’t been a smooth ride.
The origin of boxing in India can be traced back to ancient times but, as a sport, it only started to gain relevance from 1925 with the formation of the Bombay Presidency Amateur Boxing Federation.
Though there were occasional successes over the years, the nation only started to consistently win on the international stage in the early 2000s.
There were a few notable catalysts that spurred the growth of the sport in India and helped it rise through the ranks.
The first was the Indian Army.
From double Asian Games gold medallist Hawa Singh to world No. 1 Amit Panghal, the Indian Army has been at the forefront of harnessing boxing talent in the country. The Boys Army project has been a roaring success.
In fact, a third of the Indian boxers at Tokyo 2020 Olympics were from the Indian Army.
Another driving force has been the Bhiwani Boxing Club in Haryana, which has produced world champions as well as Olympic medallists consistently.
Here, we glance through the best Indian boxers who have made the country proud.
Born on November 24, 1982, in the small village of Kangathei, Manipur, MC Mary Kom is India’s most successful boxer of all time. She competes in the lower weight divisions – pinweight, flyweight and light flyweight.
Mary Kom has won the amateur world championship a record six times and has returned with a medal in each of her eight appearances. She is also the first Indian female boxer to win a medal at the Olympics, clinching a bronze at London 2012.
Mary Kom, a mother of three sons and an adopted daughter, has also won multiple Asian Championships as well as gold medals at both the Asian and Commonwealth Games.
Born on October 29, 1985, Vijender Singh is the first male superstar from India to gain global stardom. Hailing from Kaluwas village in Bhiwani, Haryana, he competes in the middleweight category.
Vijender Singh became the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal, bringing home the bronze from the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He made his Olympics debut at Athens 2004 and made another appearance at London 2012.
Vijender Singh is also the first male Indian boxer to win a World Championships medal, claiming a bronze in the 75 kg category in 2009.
Vijender went professional in 2015 and has an impressive record with 12 wins and just one loss.
Lovlina Borgohain shot to fame at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after winning the bronze medal in the welterweight division – the third Olympic medal won by an Indian boxer.
Born on October 2, 1997, Lovlina Borgohain hails from the Golaghat district in Assam and was a Muay Thai practitioner before picking up the boxing gloves. She has been rising through the ranks rapidly since winning back-to-back bronze medals at the World Championships in 2018 and 2019.
Also a two-time Asian Championships medallist, Lovlina Borgohain is currently deployed as a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) with Assam Police.
Amit Panghal was born on October 16, 1995, in the village of Mayna in Rohtak, Haryana.
At 5 feet 2 inches, Amit Panghal fights in the flyweight and light flyweight divisions. The diminutive boxer won gold in his maiden nationals in 2017 and later became the first Indian male boxer to win a World Championships silver medal.
Amit Panghal represented India at Tokyo 2020 as the world No. 1 in 52kg but couldn’t get past his opening bout. The pugilist, however, is still young and has a lot of development left in him.
Amit Panghal is currently serving in the Indian Army as a Junior Commissioned Officer.
Laishram Sarita Devi
Laishram Sarita Devi is another boxer from the Northeast of India who has reigned supreme at the world level.
Born on March 1, 1982, in Manipur’s Thoubal district, Sarita Devi practiced kung-fu before stepping into the boxing ring.
Sarita Devi enjoyed an impressive run in the 2000s, which saw her becoming the world champion in 2006 and the Asian champion five times between 2003 and 2012.
She also boasts medals at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
A two-time Olympian, Akhil Kumar has played an integral role in inspiring the younger generation from Bhiwani.
A member of the Bhiwani Boxing Club, Akhil Kumar was born on March 27, 1981 in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh. He began his international boxing career in the late 1990s and was one of the finest pugilists in the bantamweight division.
Akhil Kumar won a gold at the Commonwealth Games 2006 and clinched a bronze at the Asian Championships next year. He also competed at the Athens Olympics 2004 and Beijing 2008 before switching to professional boxing in 2017.
Taking over the bantamweight division after Akhil Kumar was Assamese boxer Shiva Thapa.
Born on December 8, 1993, Shiva Thapa was a force in the international stage from a young age and won the 54kg silver medal at the 2010 Youth Olympics.
Shiva Thapa became the youngest Indian boxer to compete at the Olympics when he took the ring at London 2012 as an 18-year-old.
After the first-round loss at the Olympics, Shiva Thapa went on to claim the gold medal at the Asian Championships 2013. He has two more silvers and bronze each from the continental meet.
Shiva Thapa also won the bronze medal at the world championships 2015.
Another boxer from the famous Bhiwani Boxing Club is three-time Olympian Vikas Krishan. He was born on February 10, 1992, in Hisar, Haryana.
Vikas Krishan first grabbed headlines by becoming the lightweight youth world champion in 2010 and also brought home a bronze from the Youth Olympics in the same year.
The Haryana boxer also won an Asian Games gold that year and followed it up with a world championships bronze in 2011. Vikas Krishan’s cabinet includes medals from the Asian Games, Asian Championships and Commonwealth Games.
He has competed at London 2012, Rio 2016 and Tokyo 2020.
In the early days of Indian boxing, Hawa Singh made a name for himself courtesy of his 11 successive national titles between 1961 and 1972.
Hawa Singh was born on December 16, 1937, in Umarwas, Haryana. He joined the army in 1956 and reigned supreme across the continent in the following decade.
By winning consecutive Asian Games gold medals in 1966 and 1970, Hawa Singh remains the only Indian boxer to defend their title at the meet. Post retirement, he co-founded the influential Bhiwani Boxing Club.
Dingko Singh was one of the first boxers who put India on the world map. He was born on January 1, 1979, in Sekta, Manipur.
A member of the famous Boys’ Army, Dingko Singh made his international debut in 1997 and won the King’s Cup in Bangkok in the same year.
A year later, he made history by winning the 54kg gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games – India’s first boxing medal at the Games in 16 years. This gold medal is what inspired Mary Kom to take up boxing.
Dingko Singh also represented India at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. He died on June 10, 2021, due to liver cancer.