Indian Express: Pune’s own boxer Manoj Pingale who came up the ranks to win a clutch of international medals, including the Commonwealth and Asian Games, and was awarded the Arjuna in 1993 is fighting hard these days to ensure that fate does not deal a similar blow to his wards in a sport that is dominated by the Defence Services.
Pingale had chosen to remain a civilian when most boxers opted for the Defence.Services and in the bargain lost out on a decent career. He has decided to enroll one of the two bright prospects at his boxing academy, started in 2006 to train civilian boxers, to join the Army Sports Institute, Pune to further his career.
A hard decision to take, but Pingale decided to be pragmatic as he was only too aware of the limitations at the Manoj Pingale Sports Academy that now functions out of a makeshift school ground in Pune Camp. “A boxing ring is a distant dream for us. We do not have any permanent space for practice. Currently, we train at a makeshift ground at the Rabindranath Tagore High School. However, since the contract has not been renewed, we can be kicked out any day.”
Only too aware of what can happen to boxers who remain out of the loop of the myriad Defence academies, Pingale has got Pranit Kumbhar to join the city-based Army Sports Institute. The 19-year-old will be first put through the paces at the Bombay Engineering Group for about a year before he is allowed to make his boxing career at the Army Sports Institute. Anil Kushwa, at 23, however, is too old to join the Army, but hopefully he can land a private sector job unlike in Pingale’s days when such an option was simply not there.
Pingale had managed to groom both Khushwa and Kumbhar to win inter-university silver and bronze medals. “If these boys can reach this far without proper facilities, the sky is the limit for them.”
However, the Arjuna awardee has not completely lost hope for civilian boxers. “I want to train at least one of my civilian students for the Olympic medal that I narrowly missed in 1988.”
From the Fischer Club grounds in Pune Camp, Pingale’s journey to the Seoul Olympic Stadium in 1988 — where he missed out on India’s first boxing bronze by one punch — was arduous. He hopes life is not as full of thorns for the new generation as it was for him as, denied a job, he had to make ends meet by setting up a small-scale unit in the city.