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India - Australia boxers to participate in joint training exercises

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Ending almost four years of uncertainty, Boxing Federation of India (BFI) President Ajay Singh said on Thursday that the country's boxers will get an opportunity to test themselves when the Australian teams (both men and women) arrive here in February to participate in a training-cum-competition event.

"We had invited the Australian team and they have accepted our invitation to come in February. Before that the women's team will be going to Serbia for a competition," Singh told reporters after Assam Chief Minister Sorbananda Sonowal declared the senior men's national championships open at the Sarusajai Indoor Stadium in Guwahati.

This will be the first instance in more than five years when Indian pugilists will train alongside a foreign team.

The national championships meanwhile, got off to a slow start. In the only bout in the first half of the day, local boy Shiva Thapa hardly broke sweat as he outpunched Arunachal Pradesh's Gumin Gara 5-0 to make a confident start in the men's Lightweight (60kg) category.

The BFI head also hailed the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) decision to let professional boxers compete in the national championships.

"Although it is too late for this championship, but we will definitely be open to having a bigger pool of boxers fighting it out for the national spots," Ajay Singh said.

"We have to make room for pro boxing as well. It is important that people who send their children to boxing should see a financial future," he said.

"Of course, people fight for glory and play for the country. In addition, we would like to see a better future. Professional leagues and boxing leagues can make it happen."

"We will have to explore those. The AIBA has come out with a notification which says they will allow professional boxers in amateur championships and represent the country. We would like to see the best boxers compete for India and find a future for themselves," he added.

Singh added that 40 medallists from all the 10 weight categories will qualify for the men's national camp, while additionally a number of promising talents will also be selected, taking the rough estimate to 60-70 boxers.

"The top 40 will be selected. In addition to that we will see which boxers have shown promise and lost in the early rounds. It could be 60-70 boxers.

"We will be on the lookout for talented boxers, even those who do not win medals," he said.