In a first for women's boxing in India, former world champion and Asian Games bronze-medallist L Sarita Devi has decided to turn professional but will not give up on the amateur circuit either if the Boxing Federation of India allows her.
The 31-year-old multiple-time Asian champion decided to take the plunge by signing up a two-year deal with the commercial partners of Indian Boxing Council (IBC) – a licensing body for professional boxers in the country -- Sporty Boxing Private Limited.
"I have been competing in the amateur circuit for a long time, more than a decade, I won medals in all the events barring Olympics. Now I feel I want to try something new so I have decided to turn professional," Sarita, a lightweight (60kg) boxer, told PTI.
"I want to challenge myself and turning professional has been on my mind for a long time. There is no amateur competition for women next year and I want to give the 2018 Asian Games a shot to undo the wrong that was done to me in 2014," added the Manipuri, referring to her controversial semifinal loss in the Incheon edition of the Games.
Sarita had to endure a year-long ban after she protested her loss by breaking down on the podium and refusing to accept her medal.
If all goes well, Sarita could be making her debut on January 19 next year against a yet-to-be-named foreign opponent.
Her decision comes at a time when the International Boxing Association (AIBA) allowed professional boxers to compete in all national and international amateur events as well.
Her name also figures in the ongoing national camp for amateur women boxers but Sarita said she would be training individually at the National Boxing Academy in Rohtak.
"I want to become a power-puncher, I will train like a professional boxer and hopefully when in Compete in amateur events, the improvement in my skills will get me better results. I hope it will be a good experience," she said.
"I will train in Rohtak because I want the focus to be on me. I want to continue in both amateur and professional for which I need focussed training," she added.
Asked if she has taken the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) into confidence, Sarita said, "I have yet to yet to speak to the Federation. I don't think there will be any problem. All countries are letting professionals to continue in the amateur as well. recently (five-time world champion) Katie Taylor also turned professional."
On what would be her goals in the professional circuit, Sarita said, "I obviously want to win a world title. I have grown up idolising Muhammed Ali and hopefully I can make it big. He is the god of boxing."
The BFI top brass, including President Ajay Singh, is currently in Switzerland for the AIBA annual Congress and 70th anniversary celebrations.
IBC President Brig. P K Muralidharan Raja said Sarita has it in her to do well in the circuit and promised more signings later.
"Many other big names of Indian boxing are set to turn pro. Deals are being closed and more announcements will follow soon," he said.