Heartbreaking story of Indian boxer who fought Muhammad Ali

Thursday 16th March 2017 06:40 EDT

Kaur Singh's is a story of apathy shown by the authorities in the welfare of sportspersons in India. He is the only Indian boxer ever to have faced the greatest boxer Muhammad Ali in the ring. While Ali is remembered for ever, Kaur Singh has remained completely unknown and leads a frugal life.

It was in 1980 and Ali came to Delhi on a stopover. On learning about it, Rajiv Gandhi convinced Ali to showcase his talent to the people of Delhi. India's national heavy weight champion Kaur Singh was selected to face Ali. A ring was set up and 50,000 people gathered to see Ali. Though Kaur Singh was no match for Ali, but it was a lifetime experience for the boxer and memory of the fight has ever been fetched in his memory. Two years later Kaur Singh won gold medal in the Asian Games.

Ali died in 2016, but will remain a legend in the memory of the people. But poor Kaur Singh has to plough his field for a living. Kaur Singh earned the Arjuna Award in 1982, the Padma Shri in 1983 and the Vishisht Sewa Medal (VSM) in 1988 from the Indian Army. Today, he is a farmer in his native village of Khanal Khurd in Sangrur. He gave up his boxing career after the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984 and never let his children pursue boxing professionally, because of the apathy shown by the government towards sportspersons. Kaur is still to receive Rs 100,000 promised to him 35 years ago by the Delhi government after he won gold at the Asiad Games.

After retiring from the Indian army, Kaur had developed a heart problem and had to undergo angioplasty. While the army paid for his treatment, the state government never bothered to inquire about his health and offer help. He not only won six gold medals in international competitions but was also awarded a Sena Medal for bravery in the India-Pakistan war in Barmer sector in Rajasthan. It is a sad commentary that the government never comes to the help of needy sportspersons and leave it to the individuals to fend for themselves.

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