New Delhi: International suspension coupled with the drug scandal that maligned Vijender Singh, has left Indian boxing grappling with its most "difficult phase" ever, feels the country's Cuban coach for over two decades -- Blas Iglesias Fernandes. "Certainly, it is the most difficult period for Indian boxing. We have taken two very hard blows," Fernandes, the first foreign coach to be honoured with a Dronacharya award, told PTI in an interview here Monday.
"The suspension has affected a lot of things. There is no clarity about which tour we would manage to go and where we won't. Every tour is uncertain, it is very difficult," he said. "Vijender, on the other hand, is the face of Indian boxing and it was a very bad episode. But he is very positive and wants to start training very soon. I am sure he would be ready for the World Championships," he added.
Vijender has already been cleared by the National Anti-Doping Agency after testing negative for heroine and is expected to resume training next week. "He is an excellent boxer...I am sure he will come out stronger from this. In a way this forced break might help him be fresh for the World Championships and give a very good performance," said Fernandes optimistically.
The 56-year-old, who began his India stint way back in 1990, is, however, quite concerned about the the suspension imposed on Indian Boxing Federation in December last year. He feels if it is not lifted soon, performance of the boxers would be affected. "There has hardly been any competitive contact with the ring after London Olympics and the performance would be affected. We have to wait and see how things go in the Asian Championships (June-July) and the World Championships (October)," he said.
Asked how the coaching staff has been keeping the boxers motivated after the sport was thrown into disarray by the international suspension, Fernandes said, "We try to keep the administrative part out of their (boxers') mind by not discussing about it. We just focus on training, probably that helps but they are upset, no doubt about that."
The suspension has come at a time when international boxing would be embracing a few changes in its competition rules -- the most crucial being getting rid of headguards to make the sport more "attractive". Fernandes said far from being attractive, boxing would become defensive and many pugilists' careers would be cut short by the risk of injury.
"I don't like this change at all. There is a huge risk of injury. You will see bouts in which an average boxer would beat and injure a class boxer by one powerful blow. Removing headgears would make boxing defensive," he explained. "The emphasis would be on power rather than technique. As for how well the Indians would respond to this change, I would say it's the same for everyone so we have to adapt," he said.
Another major change in international boxing would be to revert to the manual scoring system instead of the current use of computers. But Fernandes was not too bothered about this change as he felt no scoring system can ever be perfect. "Scoring systems can never be perfect because even computers need humans to manage them. Let's see how it works for us but hopefully it won't hurt us," he signed off.