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In ‘Little Cuba’, watering holes left high & dry
Raman Mohan
Tribune News Service

Bhiwani, August 18
A feeling of disbelief enveloped this “Little Cuba” of India after pugilist Akhil Kumar lost tamely to his Moldovan opponent in the quarterfinal of the 54 kg bantamweight category bout this evening. The town had come to a standstill at 5 pm when the bout was scheduled to begin as its residents crowded around television sets anywhere they could find one.

Many boxing enthusiasts were clutching boxes of sweets anticipating a victory for the son of the soil. Everyone was shouting words of encouragement for their favourite boxer.

However, the chatter died down when Akhil Kumar began to trail. Many began offering prayers looking skywards instead of watching the bout live. By the last round, the crowds were reconciled to the fact that Akhil was about to lose the bout. A collective sigh marked the moment the bout ended.

These scenes were repeated in every main market of the town. At the Improvement Trust market, employees from nearby government offices gathered at any shop that had a television. Many others left offices early enough to reach home and watch the live telecast.

At Serai Chowk and Ghantagahar markets, the sweet carrying enthusiasts did not know what to do with these boxes. Some left them on the counters of the shops where they were watching the bout. A few silently handed them over to street urchins who were the only ones willing to eat a sweet in this moment of disappointment and disbelief.

Ranjit Singh, himself an aspiring boxer in one of Bhiwani’s umpteen boxing training academies said, “I am very disappointed. But there are two more Bhiwaniwallas to follow.” For several days now, local watering holes had been laying out chairs outside their establishments where boxing was discussed till the wee hours.

Sajan Singh, an employee at one of these ‘thekas’ said the chairs would stay till the other two boys finish their Beijing tryst. “Aaj jashn toh nahin hoga, magar afsos bhi nahin manayenge. Yeh khel hai. Aaj Akhil ka din nahin tha. Bhiwani walon ko ab Jitender aur Vijender se umeed hai”, he added.

Akhil Kumar has been training at the local Bhiwani Boxing Club (BBC) for over 12 years now. Over these long years, he brought glory to himself and this boxing capital of India by winning several international boxing championships. He is extremely popular here not only among fellow boxers but also local youth.



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