December 7, 2021

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Chennai boxing tales of yore – the clash of clans

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, Chennai boxing tales of yore – the clash of clans, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH
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, Chennai boxing tales of yore – the clash of clans, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

In a cramped 600 square feet home in Old Washermanpet – a bustling locality in North Chennai – M. Parthiban lives a contented life with his wife and pet pug.

The 63-year-old retired employee of Chennai Port Trust was once one of the most feared professional boxers in the city and is still involved with the sport, teaching youngsters.

“Even my Kutty knows how to box,” he says in jest. And his pet, like any other pug, does have the poker face and arrogance of a boxer.

Parthiban, from the Ellappa Chettiyar clan, has fought in 30-odd bouts in a career spanning nearly 16 years and he acknowledges that there’s a sudden interest in pro-boxing after the release of the recent Tamil movie ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’, which highlighted the clan-dominated boxing scene of the 70s and 80s Madras.

Chairs thrown

“You wouldn’t have seen such crowds anywhere in Chennai. ‘Kootam alai modhum’ (crowd used to come like lashing waves) numbering thousands to the then Nehru Stadium and Kannapar Thidal,” reminisces Parthiban. “I’ve seen the best fights of the best pro-boxers. The G. Thiyagaraan-K. G. Shanmugam fight in 1978 — there was a full crowd at the Nehru Stadium. It was a thrilling fight. There was no decisive result as chairs were thrown inside the ring and the crowd erupted when the referee announced the result.”

WATCH – Chennai’s pro-boxing culture gears up for revival

Crowd trouble, as showcased in the movie, was quite common in the boxing arena. “The same thing happened in the fight between Delhi Babu and G. Thiyagarajan and the famous bout between Arumugam and Delhi Babu. Arumugam was at his peak then,” Parthiban says.

, Chennai boxing tales of yore – the clash of clans, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Golden days: T. C. Thiyagarajan — a former pro-boxer from the Sarpatta clan — has been a part of many legendary fights, including a bout against Delhi Babu. “Those days pro-boxing competitions parabarrapairrukum (were buzzing with activity).   –  R. RAVINDRAN

 

Parthiban recalls, with enthusiasm, the visit of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali to Madras in 1980. “Who can forget that?” he says. Ali fought friendly matches with amateurs Randel Peter, Rocky Bras and Parimalam. “I was 21 and I wanted to fight Ali. But everyone thought I was too young,” says Parthiban.

No gloves

T. C. Thiyagarajan – a former pro-boxer from the Sarpatta clan – had been part of many legendary fights, including a bout against Delhi Babu. “Those days pro-boxing competitions parabarrapa irrukum (were buzzing with activity). I fought in many important bouts, the most famous was against Delhi Babu. For me, Kitheri Muthu (one of the finest pro-boxers in the early 1940s. His grandson S. Babu currently runs a MKM Boxing Club in Washermanpet) is Sarpatta’s backbone,” says a proud Thiyagarajan. “We also had Sundarrajan, Selvaraj, Kadiresan and T.T. Maasi. Sarpattta’s boxing history goes back much before the arrival of British rule. There were no boxing gloves then, people used to fight with close fists on mud grounds, trading blows on the face. After the British came, everything changed.”

, Chennai boxing tales of yore – the clash of clans, The World Live Breaking News Coverage & Updates IN ENGLISH

Packing a punch: M. Parthiban was once one of the most feared professional boxers in the city and is still involved with the sport, teaching youngsters.   –  R. RAVINDRAN

 

Thiyagarajan, however, didn’t allow his sons to take up boxing and instead taught them karate. “We believed that they should be good in academics and pro-boxing would dull their brain,” says Thiyagarajan, as his wife, daughter, and two grandsons listen in as attentively as us.

‘Pride and emotion’

There is a perceptible emotion in his voice as he — after many years — wears his name-embossed jersey, which he used to don before and after a bout. “There was so much pride and emotion fighting for our clan,” he says. Can the glory days be brought back? Thiyagarajan replies in the affirmative. “It can be done,” he says. “The State Government can bring back the Parambarai sandai [fight between clans]. Many will come forward and will definitely become a huge hit.”

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Thiyagarajan, who was a Union secretary of MRF Tyres, says those interested in reviving pro-boxing must form a committee, discuss issues and go to the Government with a concrete plan. “It is possible, and money is not a problem,” he insists.

Parthiban, who holds a pro-boxing license, wants to hold a pro-boxing tournament in Chennai by March 2022. “We will conduct a tournament for 18 years and above in different weight categories. The interest will be more than what it was back then. Tamil Nadu Pro Boxing Association is registered. We need a maximum of ₹5 lakh to organise an event. With the support from the Government, and the public, I am sure it will be a top competition,” says Parthiban.

Olympian boxer V. Devarajan, who started his career in the Seven Wells area in Georgetown, says pro-boxing can be promoted in the city. “Mr. P. K. Muralidhara Raja of Indian Boxing Council asked me to conduct tournaments and find Chennai champions. When professional boxing comes, you get name, fame, and money,” says the 1992 Barcelona Olympian.

According to Devarajan, both amateur and pro boxing in Tamil Nadu can run parallelly. “Both have a similar points system. Today there are Olympic quotas for pro boxers. The boxer [Yuberjen Martinez of Colombia] who beat Amit Panghal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics is a professional boxer,” says Devarajan, who coached Mumbai Fighters for the World Boxing Series in 2011.

“I got better sparring with pro-boxers. Pro-boxing needs medium and long-term endurance while amateur boxing involves speed with fast power. Both benefit from each other,” he says.

The movie ‘Sarpatta Parambarai’ turned out to be a huge hit in Tamil Nadu, refuelling interest and passion in pro-boxing. Now it’s time for the sport to move from reel to real and chart another success story.

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