Boxing in 1950s, like many other sports in India at the time, was not so popular among the masses. Indians played boxing majorly for showcasing the strength in army quarters where officers of different ranks engaged in duels with each other. And then came Hawa Singh.
Captain Hawa Singh was such an army officer, who after retirement from army made tremendous contribution in making boxing as the one of the most exciting Olympic sports in our country.
Hawa Singh – Making of a Legend
Hawa Singh was born on 16th December 1937 , in the pre-independence India, in a village named Umar Was, which is now in Haryana. He joined the Indian National Army in 1956 when he was just 19 years old. It was during his army days, he started his boxing career and soon became the champion of Western Command in 1960.
National Boxing Circuit
He was crowned as the Champion of Western Command when he defeated the reigning champion Mohabbat Singh. Hawa Singh won National Boxing Championship Title undisputedly for 11 years in a row from 1961 to 1972. No other boxer could equal his record till date.
International Boxing Circuit
Due to diplomatic tussle between India and China regarding border dispute, Hawa Singh could not go to 1962 Jakarta Asian Games, despite being the most obvious choice for being sent to sport event. We can safely say that the lack of sporting opportunities was one of the foremost reason for India lagging behind in sports.
Hawa Singh is the only Indian boxer who won two Gold Medals at the Asian Games. He won these medals in the 1966 Asian Games which were held in Bangkok and the 1970 Games which werre also held at Bangkok, Thailand.
At 1974 Asian Games Tehran , Hawa Singh knocked out his Iranian opponent, Bura in the Final Round and was the winner for the third time, but a controversial decision by the referee deprived him of the Gold Medal that he really deserved.
Hawa Singh – Nurturing India’s Boxers
Hawa retired from active boxing in the late 1980s and moved to Bhiwani, on commission from the Ministry of Sport to set up a Sports Authority of India centre for boxing there. Well could anyone else have taken his place? The answer is no the champ boxer had established the name for himself and he had to be the one.
Hawa Singh took over chief coach of the boxing wing in Bhiwani with a first batch of ten students. Rajkumar Sangwan also belonged to the first batch of students that Hawa Singh instructed at SAI Bhiwani.
Hawa Singh – A simple man ..
People who met him during his years as a coach remember him telling them that boxing is essentially a simple sport; “it’s about punching and avoiding punches.”
Sangwan says, “Hawa Singh sir used to tell us that boxing is basically a game of the eyes and of the feet, the hands are just incidental. Every punch you land is actually made possible by your feet; everything depends on your body position. And the eyes help you avoid punches.”
Hawa Singh’s concept of weight-training was also unique. He used to have his students carry one another on their shoulders or backs and run. This would help them gain shoulder power at the same time made them agile with stronger legs.
Sangwan says, “Never have we complained of sprains or cramps or pulls like the boxers these days do. None of us ever used weights. It didn’t matter.”
But not a gentle master ..
Sangwan remembers that tough training methods of Hawa Singh Sir had made him to run away from the SAI hostel and return home convinced that he would never be a boxer.
Remembering his training days Sangwan tells “He (Hawa Singh) had his training in the Army style, and was obsessed about making us run on concrete tracks for half the day. We used to wear those cheap white PT shoes that everyone wore those days and the soles of our feet would be full of blisters by the end of the day. My calf muscles would ache and I was barely able to stand straight. But just then he would ask us to start training. I had enough and decided to run away. But somehow he found his way to my house – which was in Bhiwani at the time – and came and spoke to my father, whom he knew distantly. Then he came to me and told me that he understood what I was going through, but ‘tu chhod ke mat jaa, tu bada boxer banega.’
Sangwan quickly became Hawa Singh’s favourite student. And that led to Sangwan getting, probably, the best of what the master had to offer. Sangwan brought home four international gold medals, including the gold medal at the 1994 Asian Championships in Tehran.
Hawa Singh – The Founder Of Bhiwani Boxing Club
When the boxing legend retired, he didn’t move away from the sport. But he established The Bhiwani Boxing Club for training and development of aspiring boxers.
The Bhiwani Boxing Club produced champions like Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar.
Awards & Honors for Hawa Singh
- Arjuna Award in the year 1966.
- The Best Sportsman Trophy from the Chief of the Army Staff in the year 1968.
- Dronacharya Award from the Government of India in the year 2000,
Lesser Known facts of Captain Hawa Singh
- Hawa Singh had a dream to go to the Olympics to face the Muhammad Ali, which remained unfulfilled thanks to political issues.
- He passed away just 15 days before he was supposed to receive Dronacharya Award from the President of India. His wife, Angoori Devi received the coveted award on his behalf.
- A biopic is planned with John Abraham as Captain Hawa Singh.
- He died suddenly in Bhiwani on 14 August 2000 at the age of 62 years.
Our tribute to Captain Hawa Singh, the man who taught Bhiwani, and India , how to box.
Future of Indian boxing :Is boxing the new cricket?
Vijender’s Olympic medal changed everything,” says coach Jagdish Singh. Jagdish runs the Bhiwani Boxing Club after death of Captain Hawa Singh.
“Suddenly the media’s focus turned to boxing. Newspapers and TV spread the message in small towns and villages. Money started pouring in. Sponsors started showing interest.”
The economics of the sport changed dramatically after the 2008 Olympics. “Where we would get, say, Rs 50,000 from the Haryana government for winning a medal at an international championship, we are now getting Rs 10 lakh,” says boxer Akhil Kumar
The government awarded the former Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh with Rs 5 lakhs, after his 1998 Asian Championships victory. Now the award is 10 or 15 times more than that money, for a boxer who wins the Asian Championships .
We hope that financial motivation and dedicated training facilities brings Olympics medal in boxing and boxing becomes as popular as cricket in India.
But it is a long long way to go……
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