September 15, 2017, New Delhi
With the overkill of televised cricket in the last few years, many traditional sports have found their way back into the national ‘primetime’ limelight like badminton, kabaddi, hockey, football, boxing, and now, wrestling. Thankfully, marketers and brands have woken up to the potential of these sports as an event, especially given the vast length and breadth of our regions. Game formats are tweaked to suit television audiences. Slowly but surely, every sport is beginning to identify the fans it already had.
The fact remains that India, as a competing nation at the Summer Olympics, has won more Olympic medals in wrestling (4 bronze and 1 silver) than any of its other sports. In comparison, India has won 4 shooting medals, 2 badminton medals, and 2 boxing medals. Therefore it is only natural that franchises occupying competitions like the Pro-Wrestling League (PWL) become household names just as quickly. Even the United World Wrestling (UWW) president has repeatedly praised the potential and opportunities presented by this initiative.
In the same vein, Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium will see an exclusive one-day action-packed wrestling event on September 15 – the 1st K.D. Jadhav Memorial International Kushti Championship. 32-year-old two-time Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion and World Pro-Wrestling Champion, Sangram Singh, is the man behind this event.
Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was independent India’s first-ever Olympic medalist and the country’s first-ever individual medalist in the 1952 Helsinki Games. He won bronze in the bantamweight category and had his Olympics funded by his ex-college principal. His was a remarkable story against all odds, in an age where there was no publicity, cash rewards and recognition afforded to most individual athletes representing the tricolor at the Summer Games. He posthumously won the Arjuna Award in 2001, 17 years after he died in trying and financially strained circumstances.
The one-day tournament will have six male and two female wrestlers, and five bouts. Singh will be headlining the night with his fight against American National Champion, Kevin Radford Jr. Much like boxing, there will be six rounds of three minutes each, with a break of 45 seconds between each round. Radford won The Open and has been steadily on the rise after his brutal defeat at Budapest last December at the Greco-Roman World Wrestling Clubs Cup in the 85 kg category.
Over the last few years, while many of us have associated Sangram Singh with popular TV reality shows like Bigg Boss, Survivor, and Nach Baliye. In fact, it was forgotten that he is first and foremost a professional athlete. He is the ‘showman’ version of his sport – a Rohtak-born wrestler and entertainer who has traveled, won and represented his nation many times.
He returns to the mat after a year away from the sport, having launched it with the support of India’s only Olympic gold medalist Abhinav Bindra, and Olympic boxers Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar. This five-card night will primarily serve as a showcase for younger and upcoming tier-2 and tier-3 wrestlers and Singh’s bout will be the last of them.
Singh’s star-studded event is a tribute to India’s first 'star' wrestler, soon after he acquired the rights to make a biopic on Jadhav’s life.