Sunday, November 27, 2005

three cheers for ndtv

NDTV Profit, of all channels, stepped up to support Indian boxing, airing 5 matches during semi-primetime Sunday evening, televised from Ansal Plaza. Touting the show as a first for India and dubiously enshrining the Delhi mall/plaza as India's Madison Square Garden, NDTV Profit delivered a concept about which rumors had been floating around for awhile (ESPN was supposedly looking to promote a boxing tournament in its search for ratings since losing the bidding war for cricket).

I doubt the ratings were great, but the show was as entertaining as one could expect for non-tournament amateur-level boxing. That said, the quality of the performances was rather poor. Vijender Singh displayed solid tactical skills in pointing out an out of shape--and surely ballooned up at least one weight class?--Kim Jung Joo of Korea, who as a former Olympic bronze medalist was billed as the star attraction. Sadly, Singh was the only one of the Indian boxers to throw a single jab, which raised questions about the coaching of the team and advice given in the corners. Because under the current scoring system, punches only score if three of the five judges click a button to tabulate the punch within a second of one another, only the clearest of punches ever count toward victory--and nine times out of ten those are the straight jabs and crosses. While the Indians swung wild hooks--some of which connected and were not scored, some of which didn't connect at all--the fighters from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan showed that they understood the rules by which international amateur boxing is governed and racked up points with the workmanlike one-twos of the Russian school.

The most impressive fighter of the night was world junior champion Rahimov Ilhom of Uzbekistan, who handled Commonwealth games champ Akhil Kumar easily (Akhil threw no jabs at all, and held his hands at belt level even after Ilhom demonstrated he was the faster man). Meanwhile, superheavyweight Jitender Kumar looked fat, slow and clumsy in defeating a fatter, slower, clumsier Yumgoluv Abdel of Turkmenistan. The superheavyweight class is the weakest, and therefore the easiest in which to compete, so Jitender may have made a good manuever in moving up from heavyweight. But he needs to move some of the poundage from his paunch to his extremities from the looks of things. The only other bright spot for India was flyweight Balbir Singh, who lost his composure a bit in swarming Esenov Esenguli of Turkmenistan but threw punches with bad intentions (as Mike Tyson used to say) and scored a picture-perfect knockdown with a strong right hook.

Let's hope that the gig made NDTV a little money, or impressed ESPN enough to spur the rudderless sports channel into action.

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