Boxers in Nagaland up against odds outside ring
DIMAPUR — Amid lack of a strong sporting culture in Nagaland, aspirations of budding boxers from the state seem to collide with formidable challenges beyond the confines of the boxing ring. The absence of experienced mentors and scarcity of state-of-the-art training facilities further compound the difficulties.
Nokinyanger, a seasoned boxing coach from Longjang village, Mokokchung, shared his perspective on the issues and challenges seen in Nagaland’s current boxing scene. According to him, the primary challenge stems from a lack of government support, which has resulted in limited participation of Nagaland boxers at the national and international levels.
He said that boxers must fund themselves, which is not always possible. Another challenge that boxers in Nagaland face is ‘favouritism,’ he said, claiming that coaches often sideline talented boxers in favour of their own trainees or for other reasons.
“If only we could focus more on sponsoring and promoting deserving boxers, it would be a great boost,” he said.
Also, boxing as a career in Nagaland cannot sustain a livelihood, forcing many talented boxers to hang their gloves midway, he said.
On the brighter side, the seasoned coach said that community engagement and outreach can play an important role in encouraging more athletes to pursue boxing, and cited the successful outreach initiatives such as coaching camps undertaken by the Mokokchung Boxing Association (MBA).
He encouraged other districts to form such associations, stating that it would not only spread awareness but also identify, encourage and promote budding boxers.
Continuing the legacy of his late father, Anokwaba, who served as a boxing coach in Nagaland Police during the late 1970s, coach Akum Imchen is actively imparting boxing training to young enthusiasts under the MBA.
He emphasised on the importance of experienced boxers and coaches having a passion for guiding learners and approaching their roles with compassion and respect to inspire youths.
Imchen also pointed out that lack of proper infrastructure and resources significantly reduce opportunities and teaching-learning experiences for both learners and coaches, ultimately leading to poor results.
A change he would like to see in the local boxing scene is more opportunities for aspirants in district school-level competitions, just like any other sport, which could lay the groundwork for making boxing more appealing.
Furthermore, he cited lack of discipline, determination and consistency in training as a challenge for aspiring boxers as well as coaches.
According to the coach, to improve the system for boxers in Nagaland, there has to be support from governmental and non-governmental organisations in terms of both financial and overall boxing prospects. If the local boxing community collaborates with various organisations, positive results will be seen in a few years, similar to what is being witnessed in Manipur and Mizoram, he maintained.
Ramesh Sharma, the present boxing coach at the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Sports Training Centre in Dimapur, observed that the students show keen interest in boxing but lack consistency.
According to him, aspiring Naga athletes have a tendency to invest effort for a short period of time, expecting and anticipating immediate success. However, if they do not achieve success in a short period, they are more likely to abandon their pursuit.
Additionally, even if they achieve success, some tend to switch over to other disciplines, making it a challenge for coaches who invest significant effort and time in training.
“The key to success lies in maintaining continuity in a specific sport, an area where Naga athletes tend to fall behind,” Sharma maintained.
The boxing coach also disclosed that the SAI Sports Training Centre primarily provides basic level training, and individuals seeking advanced training can enrol at the SAI National Centre of Excellence (NCOE), located in Imphal and Guwahati.
While lamenting that there is no NCOE established in Nagaland, Sharma however commended the current government’s investment in other sports infrastructure and expressed hope that such developmental initiatives will be sustained in the future.
Tongpangnokcha Longkumer, who secured a bronze medal at the inaugural Nagaland Olympic at the age of 16, halted his pursuit of boxing due to injuries sustained in a match.
Longkumer, who is now 23-years-old, is currently actively involved in providing boxing training to young enthusiasts. He said he does not have any regrets about choosing boxing as a career, as it has helped him set clear goals in life and boost his self confidence.
Maintaining that the combat sport requires a thoughtful and holistic approach with a supportive environment a sense of belonging, he also said that, as a coach, prioritising the safety and well-being of trainees while maintaining a rigorous training schedule is crucial to their long-term success and health.
The young coach was of the view that boxing extends beyond the confines of the ring as it necessitates comprehensive strategic planning like proper nutrition, professional medical support, individualised training programmes and ensuring access to the right resources.