At first glance, it looks like a regular boxing match taking place in an 18×22 feet square, albeit in the banquet hall of a 5-star business hotel. Two boxers step into the ring followed by the referee. Unlike amateur boxing, the players are not seen wearing any protective headgear. Outside the ring, three officials are ready to score the bout. The excitement starts to grow when the emcee announces that the boxers will be allowed to use only three punches — jab, uppercut and hook — to outdo each other.
The adrenaline rush reaches the zenith when the boxers start throwing punches in quick succession. Blood oozes from the forehead of one of the boxers and the referee steps in, but spirits remain high. The bloodied boxer has quicker hands and manages to land the victory after eight exciting rounds of three minutes each. Welcome to the world of ‘Punch Boxing’, a peppy form of boxing that was started in 2013. The eighth edition of the fight night was recently held in Greater Noida. What makes the game appealing is the intriguing form of combat, which is essentially a test of endurance and speed.
“Punch Boxing is a professional boxing series sanctioned by the Indian Boxing Council (a national boxing commission for professional boxing in India),” said Arif Khan, CEO of Sports Oodles.
Sports Oodles has organised Punch Boxing fight nights in different cities including Delhi, Dehradun, Mumbai, Goa and Jaipur, and the Crowne Plaza in Greater Noida. “Punch Boxing was started in 2013 with the sole motive of promoting the sport in the country,” said Khan.
In the latest season, winners got ‘prize money’ ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 5 lakh, depending on their record and opponent, explained Khan.
Formats like Punch Boxing are turning a traditional sport like boxing into a new-age spectacle. Take another example of Dabur Group chairman Amit Burman-promoted Ultimate Kho Kho (UKK), a franchise-based league that was held in August this year. The inaugural edition was hailed for giving a leg-up to a rustic Indian sport dating back to ancient times. A total of 30 matches were played and six teams vied for the top spot at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune, Maharashtra. Till UKK, the game had apparently never made it to the mainstream.
In the inaugural edition of the tournament, a whopping prize money amount of Rs 2 crore was up for grabs. While the champion team (Odisha Juggernauts) was awarded Rs 1 crore, the runners-up (Telugu Yoddhas) bagged Rs 50 lakh. The third-place team (Gujarat Giants) took home Rs 30 lakh. There were also other awards worth Rs 20 lakh that were given away.
Earlier, 143 players were picked by the six franchises for the league, of which 77 from Category A (players were divided into four categories — A, B, C and D — according to their performances at national and international levels) were offered `5 lakh each.
Similarly, Hockey5s, a shorter and faster version of the traditional sport of field hockey, came into the limelight when India won the 2022 Men’s FIH Hockey5s tournament, defeating Poland 6-4, in an exciting final held in Lausanne, Switzerland, in July this year.
Hockey5s is similar to what T20 is to cricket, Rugby7s is to rugby and 3×3 basketball is to basketball. It was first introduced in 2013 with the intent of driving up viewership of hockey by making it quicker, simpler and more entertaining. The first time the format made an appearance on a big international stage was the 2014 Youth Olympics in China. Since then, Hockey5s has steadily grown in popularity and is played by over 60 nations.
Hockey5s can play a major role in the development of the sport worldwide, said Thierry Weil, CEO of Fédération Internationale de Hockey (‘International Hockey Federation’ in English). Commonly known by the acronym FIH, it is the international governing body of field hockey and indoor field hockey. “Thanks to its format (smaller pitch, less players), many countries which do not necessarily have the resources to develop a solid 11-a-side hockey, will be able to do so with Hockey5s. Also, the fact that you can play in unusual places, even in the heart of cities, with simpler rules, more goals and almost non-stop action, thanks to the perimeter boards, will give to Hockey5s a dynamic, young and urban colour, which is really trendy at the moment,” added Weil.
But there are also some apprehensions that Hockey5s may slowly replace the traditional format of the game. Denying this, Weil said: “Hockey5s is not here to replace the 11-a-side version. We see Hockey5s as a complement and also an entry gate to 11-a-side hockey. It’s a way for players, especially young ones, to join and enjoy hockey.”
Agreed Khan of Sports Oodles: “Punch Boxing continues to work towards making boxing a mainstream sport in India. And this is going to happen very soon. Boxing is a sport played by 200 countries and it is the biggest revenue-making sport in the world. For example, the fight between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao on May 2 this year was the richest in boxing history, where Floyd got Rs 1,800 crore and Manny got Rs 1,200 crore for a single fight of 12 rounds of 3 minutes each.” “We have world-level talent in India itself, they just need a little more exposure,” Khan added.