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YMCA BOXING A MOVEMENT
The tennis courts of the Tourist Hostel of the New Delhi YMCA was the stage for the first act of what eventually became a never - ending drama of unlimited acts. Fittingly, the birth of the YMCA invitation Boxing Championship began with schoolboys and appropriately too, the final of that Championship in 1973 involved the country's first, and till now, only Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw , the Chief of the Army Staff.
He was the Chief Guest at the closing ceremony, a day dominated entirely by the young boxers of the Services: MEG Bangalore in tandem with the boys from BEG Roorkee and BEG kirkee. Sam Maneckshaw's military presence gave day the championships a perpetuity which the organizers not even dreamt of, particularly after the erratic take - off on the first day when there was just one referee to stand in the ring, just one for a total of 27 bouts. The YMCA was distinctly fortunate to have had Cdr. Ted Rowe as a part of the Organizing Committee, a man of many parts, a man who thought and dreamed of boxing. He was referee, judge and the jury. 

And Rowe stood in the ring for all the 27 bouts, taking an occasional break for breath of fresh air. He was as magnificent performance as that of the hundred odd boxers who flocked the Tourist Hostel lawns in the four days of the championships. It was a great encore by all and at the end of it all and a few days later the organizers at the YMCA had reasons to be delighted for beginning a venture with such a success. The cause for their elation was contained in a letter from Col. Clive Millet of the APT school, who had sat among the judges all fours days. " I have not come across a better organized Boxing Championship was the gist of his letter to Mr. N.J. Cornelius, then Secretary General of the New Delhi YMCA who had their courage and conviction to agree to go- ahead to the Boxing Championship. 

But kudus and self-praise alone do not make a movement. The YMCA invitation Meet was a project which attracted multi-prong attention; from the two local school Frank Anthony Public School and St. Xavier's their headmasters and masters, senior officials of the Railways and other walks of life to the Services, all three wings. In fact, the birth of YMCA Championships, the Continuity of the movement and the gaining popularity, can all be traced to the unstinted support the YMCA has received from the Armed Forces. One cannot separate the YMCA boxing from the Services. From providing the competitors, ring officials and medical officers to ring equipment and weighing machines, it has been the Services all the way. If St. Xavier's provided the ring (designed by the amiable Jackeir Imlay) or the first few years, it was the army which sent its men to set up the improved roped square for many years. And each succeeding G.O.C in C, Delhi Area, personally took interest in the success of the Championships. 

The boxing at the YMCA Championship evolved its own ambience, quite unique in the composition of the crowds which the Tourist Hostel lawns, characteristic school boy rivalry giving place to a more professional antagonism particularly when involving the army schoolboy unit and, more importantly, in the boxing personalities who flocked to the ringside. The crowd in the early days was a very knowledgeable one particularly the small Anglo Indian community which made the YMCA boxing stands its home during the Championships, a community where even the ladies shouted hoarse, their preference for a boxer or a bout. "Kill him" was one of the more diluted refrains. Alas, there are only a handful of those colourful personalities left to cheer the boxers in their own individualistic manner and as for the rivalry between the three Engineering Groups-BEG Kirkee, BEG Roorkee and MEG Bangalore that perhaps is still discernible if not as pervasive as it was those early days. 

As for personalities, the mist clears and one could see, recall, and recollect the figures from the enriched past, some of whom fought as 'seconds': Buddy D'Souza, Sammy and Pesi Khatau, Munnuswamy Venu, Chandra Naryanan (Still prominently involved) Mani Kumar Rai, Bhagwan and the ever green Om Prakash Bhardwaj still coaching. 

Most of the schoolboys and juniors whose initiation was enacted in the YMCA ring reached national status and some of them progressed to the international stage too. Amaladass and Pradhan and many others were blooded in the roped share of the YMCA. Almost every national champion left his mark and square of them became local hero's too. Pandurang More could not have had a better reception anywhere else. He was the K.O. King of the first YMCA championships, and Machaiah and Bakshish, two great boxers, were equally popular. There were others, one forgets. It has been such a long time, some thirty nine years ago. 

The Boxing Championships have had a splendid run, progressing from schoolboys through juniors to seniors with often more than 500 odd entries chocking the place at the YMCA, the sport has taken root and flowered in an distinctive way. The civilian is no longer afraid to stand up to the Services boxers. That is, perhaps, one of the biggest achievement of theYMCA championships, the only boxing saga of its type in the world where quite often there is unlimited action for six days may be seven sometimes. 

The movement started by the YMCA Championships has spread all over with Delhi and initial beneficiary. Restricted to just two schools the sport caught the imagination of other schools. And with the then National Institute of Sports stepping in with a helping hand, boxing clubs mushroomed in Delhi and soon the colleges too embraces the mainly game. 

Today the YMCA Boxing Championship has been internationalized. Its popularity has crossed the seas, as it were, and if in the early days it was Frank Anthony Public School versus St. Xavier's or MEG verses BEG Roorkee-Kirkee, or Sikh Regimental Centre or Kumaonies, now it is Indian versus Uzbeks or what you will? 

But the character of the Championships has been maintained. It is essentially a services - oriented show with the dedicated staff of the YMCA, as keenly and as always silently involved in the administration. And as one talks of silent workers, one remembers the quiet efficiency of Philip Jadhav and Keith Jordan, the Secretaries in the infancy of the Championships. A thought also should be spared for the late Ajit Symour, Member of the YMCA board. And of course Morris Chakraborty, son of Col. Chakraborty of Jabalpur. Morris is no more, but this old retainer was as part of the YMCA boxing as Cdr. Rowe. He made it his job to look after the needs of the officials. 

The YMCA Boxing Championship has flourished during the time. It is a yearly reminder of a dream taking shape, a small beginning, progressing a perpetual action. No one can dispute this fact. 

Brig. V Chandrasekaran, who was one of the judges in the first YMCA Championships, is still very much involved in the sport and Mr. B S Khosla, who helped out with the Press on that occasion, is also still connected, perhaps much more, with the Championships. This will testify to the evolution of this movement - from schoolboys boxing in 1973 to International Boxing in 1996.
 


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