When Gaurav Bidhuri won the Bronze medal in the bantamweight division at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Hamburg, Germany back in 2017, he felt like he was unstoppable and rightfully so, he was only the fourth Indian boxer to ever win a medal at the world championships.
Fast-forward two-years, Gaurav Bidhuri is fighting for a chance to represent India at the international level in the amateur competition. In a letter addressed to the sports minister, he wrote that he was unfairly kept out of the trials to be held on December 29 and 30 in Bellary, Karnataka for the Olympic qualifiers.
“I have had enough of this unfair system. The medallists from this year’s world championships were given direct slots in the Olympic Qualifiers. But when I won the world bronze in 2017, I wasn’t even allowed to appear for Commonwealth and Asian Games trials,” Bidhuri told PTI on Thursday.
“At that time I was told I hadn’t competed for enough, this time I am being told I haven’t competed against strong opponents. Can somebody explain what is the selection criteria here? It doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
In the recently concluded AIBA world championships in Yekaterinburg, two Indian boxers managed to win a medal and were exempted from the trails. Manish Kaushik won a bronze medal in the lightweight division and Amit Pangal won a silver medal in the flyweight category.
However, an anonymous spokesperson from the Boxing Federation of India has revealed that Gaurav’s exclusion from recent trails has been because of his performance in the recently concluded Big Bout League, where he represented Bengaluru Brawlers.
“The selection policy has been in the public domain for a long time. There is no discrimination as he has alleged. Don’t want to get into details but the rankings have been made purely on performance,” the official said.
The 26-years old Gaurav Bidhuri wants to give the trials in the 57 kg category, but the boxers selected for the trails on the basis of the ranking points system, are former world quarterfinalist and Asian silver-winner Kavinder Singh Bisht, Commonwealth Games medal-winning duo of Mohammed Hussamuddin and Gaurav Solanki and former world youth world champion Sachin Siwach.
Gaurav Solanki fought in the Big Bout League thrice. He lost to Gaurav Solanki and Kavinder Singh Bisht but managed to defeat Mohammad Etash.
MMA India show had an interview with Gaurav Bidhuri, where he revealed further details regarding the selection procedure.
Q. 1) Why do you think that the selection procedure was unfair?
Ans: I was told by the federation that the selection procedure for the Olympic trials will be on the basis of my performance at the Big Bout League. So the guy [Gaurav Solanki] that they have selected for the big bout league has fought twice and I have fought thrice.
He lost the first fight and I won the first fight, we bought on our second bout and in the third round he was cut and the fight ended in a 3-2 split decision loss for me and it was a close fight and it ended up being controversial.
we objected to the federation and asked that they review the decision, but there was no response from them and then he didn’t even fight once in the league.
My third fight was with Kavinder Singh Bisht and that fight also ended up being a 3-2 split decision loss for me. I shared the scorecards on social media as well and it was clearly visible that it was a controversial decision because every judge gave 10-9 decision, but one judge had it 10-8.
It is outrageous, 10-8 means a boxer can’t even box, so it was clearly visible that the decision was a little controversial.
So overall I fight three times and he [Kavinder] fought twice and my fight with Kavinder was very close and maybe if the judges had the right scorecards, I would have won. He lost his first fight and in the second fight, he fought me and it was very close, so overall my performance was better than him.
Q 2.) You have mentioned on your facebook post that you weren’t given a chance to appear for the CWG and Asian Games trails in 2018 as well, what was the reason behind it?
Ans: They (Boxing federation of India) said that I haven’t competed for enough as I had back injury, so I didn’t compete as I was in rehab because I was focusing on commonwealth games trials, as a result, I wasn’t able to compete in small events
Nobody from federation informed me that ‘Gaurav you haven’t competed recently in any competition, so you won’t be given any chance for the future trials CWG trials]’, But I was focusing on CWG trails as it was pointless to compete in smaller tournaments and risk further injuries.
But I was a recent medalist [from 2017 world championships], so I am your asset, they should have come to me and told me that I needed to compete in smaller tournaments in order to appear for the CWG trials.
I was in the camps and neither was I able to do proper rehab neither training, I was in the camp so that I would be eligible to appear for the trails, but they didn’t allow me
But during the Asian games trials, I went to Mumbai and did proper rehab and also fought in an international competiton which the federation gave me in just a week after I came from a trial and I medalled in that event too.
But even then the federation said that I haven’t competed in over a year so they can’t give me the opportunity to appear in trails, I mean ‘How can I play if I am injured’, they should at least give me an opportunity to prove myself. So it seems like according to them I cannot make a comeback.
Q 3.) What are you going to do now? Are you going to appeal to the federation?
Ans: Now it’s not possible to appeal as the trials is nearing and they have sent the names also, so my main motive was that I didn’t talk for two-years as I wanted to compete at the CWG Games, Asian Games, recently concluded world championships.
Now that the Olympics have neared and for two years that I was silent, I wanted to get it all out…So I wanted the people to know that I didn’t disappear anywhere, all these things happened with me, so I just wanted people to know that.
Q 4.) The sports ministry has previously said that they cannot interfere in the selection committee as it would violate the Olympic rules, do you expect any help from the ministry at all?
Ans: See I am not expecting anything from the ministry, but somewhere it’s our Indian sports which is suffering not just boxing, this injustice is happening in every sport.
I managed to gain some confidence to talk about this. I don’t know the consequences of this, but if athletes from different sport come up and talk about this injustice then the sports ministry has to interfere.
Q 5.) Do you have any plans of pursuing a career in pro boxing?
Ans: See two-years of my career as been wasted in amateur boxing because of this saga, you won’t believe but my father, who is also a boxer is now suffering from a high blood pressure because of me.
He is running here and there and talking to people for me that I have faced all these unfair things. I wanted to compete at the Olympics and if that doesn’t happen, I will definitely turn pro.
Q 6.) Do you have a target as to which promoter you want to sign with?
Ans: For me, the target right now is Top Rank promotions, if they approach me, I will definitely sign with them and right now I am in talks with former two-time world champion Amir Khan, so let’s see how it goes and who helps me out right now.
Q 7.) What is your message to young boxers who have to deal with politics?
Ans: See it was my mistake that I stopped myself from speaking for the past two years. I would say, if things are happening bad, just speak out…that is the only way these things will stop otherwise it will go on and on, so if some injustice happens with you, just speak out.