In the ring you face your opponent just like facing problems in life - Indian boxer Akashdeep Singh
Boxing in India is still at a ‘growing’ stage where opportunities are limited but the talent is prevalent. The likes of Vijender Singh, Mary Kom, Shiva Thapa, Akhil Kumar and more recently Lovlina Borgohain have played an integral role in the promotion of the sport in India and have inspired generations to come to dream of a career in this field. With more and more sportspersons taking up boxing professionally, the future has never looked brighter than it does today.
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, professional boxer Akashdeep Singh speaks about his journey so far, getting support and assistance from IPBA, the involvement of Mr. Kamal Mujtaba, overcoming challenges and his future goals.
Q 1) How old were you when you started boxing and what motivated you to take it up professionally?
I started boxing on 7th August 2012, my main motivation was my grandfather who was in the army and he was also a boxer in Nashik. That inspired my father who wanted me to become a boxer. It all started from home, boxing requires a lot of sportsmanship spirit and I wanted to achieve something for myself. In the ring you face your opponent just like facing the problems in life.
Q 2) As a professional boxer, what kind of support and assistance do you expect from IPBA?
The main problem for every athlete is diet, if diet is taken care of then athletes can focus on the other aspects and improve on their performance. If we get nutritional assistance like supplements, it goes a long way in helping a sportsperson grow.
Q 3) How has Mr. Kamal Mujtaba shaped you as a professional boxer?
In the beginning I had no idea how to start professional boxing because it was a new concept for India. I used to ask around for advice but nobody had any answers. When I got in touch with Kamal Mujtaba sir he saw potential in me and motivated me. Even though we are very far apart from each other as I'm in Gurgaon and he is based in Bangalore, he keeps in touch with me via normal calls or video calls to give advice and sometimes even comes to meet me. The best thing about him is that he gives me the assurance to keep going and I always feel his constant support.
Also read: I want all Indian boxers to have the right guidance to succeed in this sport - Boxing coach Mujtaba Kamal
Q 4) What are some of the challenges that you had to face while becoming a professional boxer and How did you overcome them?
There are a lot of training centers in India and they have coaches as well but many coaches don't have proper knowledge, which is the main difficulty for any athlete. In India, a lot of places have an attitude of come, practice for the sake of it and go. There is no care for what the athlete or student wants to do, if he wants to train today or get some counseling. Other problems are diet, personal family problems and financial situations which we have to face and make the most out of our talent at the same time, because there is not that much scope for sportsmen in India. We have to face challenges from all sides and our families also worry about the career path that we have chosen and what will happen. That is why apart from training there are a lot more things that need to be provided to athletes. Getting sponsors is also a big issue for me. Apart from training, competition is also necessary and every place does not have competition because where I come from professional boxing is not well known.
Q 5) Who were some of your boxing idols while growing up and how did they inspire you?
I don’t actually have a boxing idol, I tend to follow everyone and watch their videos online. If I like someone's boxing movement then I try to emulate it as much as I can. I try not to specifically follow someone because everyone has different styles. If I follow a particular individual boxer's style then I will be successful only in the short run, not in the long run. My gameplan is to observe each and every boxer be it female, male or even junior boxers.
Q 6) What are your future goals and ambitions and how do you plan to achieve them?
My main motive is to win a title fight outside India at a good level where I can represent my country internationally. The concept of pro boxing in India is relatively new as it has been introduced two or three years ago but the people aren’t aware of it, the audience who have heard or even seen pro boxing in movies tend to compare it. My motivation is also to raise boxing awareness amongst the Indian audience and most importantly show them proper boxing techniques. All of this is only possible if I can fight internationally and get people to see me.
I want all Indian boxers to have the right guidance to succeed in this sport - Boxing coach Mujtaba Kamal
With the Tokyo Olympics having recently concluded, Indian boxers for the most part would have been left with a bitter aftertaste after an underwhelming performance. Out of the nine unprecedented boxers at Japan’s capital, only one (Lovlina Borgohain) secured a bronze medal while notable names such as Mary Kom, Amit Panghal, Ashish Kumar and Simranjit Kaur fell short. It’s fair to wonder what needs to change at the grassroots for India to become more competitive in professional boxing, especially at the highest level.
To learn more about India’s professional boxing scenario, coach Mujtaba Kamal sheds light on his career, scouting for Indian talent, overcoming challenges and his expectations and goals for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Q 1) You were pursuing boxing in the mid-2000’s, how much of an impact did injuries have for you to give up your dreams and choose a career as a fitness boxing coach?
I started professional boxing in 2012, after I played amatuer boxing for almost 13 years before that. I moved to Hong Kong, China to turn professional and then I had a few fights against Samoa boxers and Hong Kong boxers but that is not recorded in the BoxRec. BoxRec is basically a record book which has records of all the boxing fights for example if you search Muhommed Ali, the website shows you his number of matches, wins, losses, draws, knockouts. I fought a professional fight in 2012 and then I found a promoter from China, after which I suffered a jaw fracture. The concept of professional boxing is not there in India which is why I had to move abroad. In professional boxing, you have an entire team which includes a coach, manager, matchmaker, promoter but I didn’t have a team at the beginning, I used to coach myself and ask people to give me a chance to fight which is the reason I couldn't succeed as a professional boxer. My main goal after that has been to structure professional boxing in India as I was on a 1 month bed rest after my jaw fracture, the day I got up is when I decided that professional boxing needs to have a structure in India. I wanted to give other people the chance I couldn't get because I wasn’t guided. I want all Indian boxers to have the right guidance to succeed in this sport. As of now I have 70 Professional boxers with me and most of them are 1st rankers in India.
Q 2) What do you look for in an aspiring boxer that will give you an indication of their talent?
A professional boxer needs to have a hardcore style with good feet movement, the foundation has to be strong. So I see the boxer's style first to judge his potential and overall talent. I observe his amatuer record because after turning professional many boxers restart their process to make their foundation stronger. I check his achivements in amatuer, national and state level. Apart from that, I look at how much heart and courage the fighter has. Whether he has fear and how much capacity of punches he is able to endure. I check all these through videos of his fights and conversations with his coaches to see if he has what it takes to become a professional.
Q 3) Who are some of the most notable names that have trained under you? How do you use social media to scout for young talent?
I primarily focus on boxing related content on social media to build awareness for boxing and pro-boxing amongst boxers as well as general audience. Social media has been a great tool that helps me to connect with boxers and boxing fans. Many boxers reach out to through Instagram for guidance, especially those who want to turn pro. Surprisingly, many people who are doing boxing for fitness right now are keen on starting their professional career which would be technically very difficult but it’s good to see that boxing is getting more popular day by day. Earlier, if I saw someone's name in BoxRec and ametuer records, then first and foremost I check their Instagram before anything else but most of the Indian boxers are active on Instagram but not too much, which is why you don’t get an idea about their impact. Now, I personally contact people and ask for videos. I also research about them and ask around. Faizan Anwar is one of our boxers who we have moved to Dubai under Round 10 and D4G boxing promotions and currently is managed by Jose Mohan and me. There aren’t many training facilities in India for boxing so he has moved to Dubai. There he has another management team and all of us together are managing him. There are other boxers like Satish Karthik, Arshad Asif Khan, Akashdeep Singh, Ramandeep Kaur who are ranked number one in India who are all managed by me.
Also read: From Assam to Tokyo: How Lovlina Borgohain captured a billion hearts with bronze at the Olympics
Q 4) Do you think India can provide a good platform for aspiring boxers, seeing as you had to move to Hong Kong to pursue your professional career?
This is what is happening now, Mandeep Jangra who is an Arjuna Awardee and Asian Championship silver medalist moved to the US because India does not have a proper training platform or structure in professional boxing. I need the sponsor's support and need to build a proper training platform so that I can support India’s B grade boxers. India's top class boxers like Shiva Thapa or others want to turn into professional boxers but India still does not have a structure.
If you look at the Tokyo Olympics, 7 to 8 boxers or maybe even more were a part of the Men’s and Women’s team. In professional boxing a lot of things take place in a year other than training, there is personal management which takes care of the diet, handling social media, improving mental health along with boxing and also financial support for every fight. If we start this culture in India, I am sure we can win more medals in the 2024 Olympics. This time out of 9 boxers, we got 1 medal and can improve this tally next time. Many boxers want to turn professional and amatuer. In amatuer boxing, there is only one event in a year that is the National Championship. The medal winners will be in the Indian camp, any promising boxer who loses in the quarterfinals or earlier has to wait for a year, in the meantime can turn into a professional boxer and can play matches regularly and thus the platform for the boxers will be ready.
Q 5) What are some of the challenges that you have faced, both as a professional boxer and a coach? How did you overcome them?
I did not have much experience as a professional boxer. Having fought 2,3 bouts, I was then affected by an injury. As a professional boxer I did not get many fights and did not receive any guidance, I was doing it by myself. Unlike amateur boxing, we currently don’t have a proper structure and mechanism for professional boxing in India. To succeed in professional boxing, there is a need for strong coaching, management and promotion. Since 2016, AIBA is allowing boxers to compete in both amateur and professional platforms simultaneously, thus bringing a major change in boxing world. It is time for us to learn from developed and leading boxing countries, and focus more on professional boxing. In India since there is no proper management, boxers fail to get good quality bouts, many boxers don’t have the basic foundation in boxing, boxers who are not even district champions turn into professional boxing. Professional boxing is a lot more complex and tougher than amatuer boxing. Experience is a major factor turning into professional boxing, this is one of the major challenges I have faced. Those boxers who I promote just want to fight blindly, they are not aware of the rankings and the experience after the fight. In order to overcome these challenges I want to set up a training academy for professional boxing. Cult has helped me a lot by using their facilities to promote professional boxing from the start, because of them I have over 70 boxers in which some are champion boxers. They also provide nutrition management and strong financial support.
Q 6) Do you believe that some of your trainees will represent India at the 2024 Olympics and hopefully win medals for the country?
Yes, I am sure that there will be individuals who will represent the country at the 2024 Olympic Games. I have been preparing for them since 2019 and it takes years of training. It not only takes individual effort but there is also a lot of teamwork involved. In professional boxing, there will be boxers who have trained under me who will perform very well in the 2024 Olympics and hopefully win a medal as well.
I hope to become a role model to inspire aspiring boxers to do better - Karthik Sathish
It was only in 2019 when Karthik Sathish began his professional boxing journey but the boxer from Tamil Nadu has already made a name for himself in the boxing news for both domestic and international circuits. From his debut in Thailand where Karthik registered his first professional win to facing Mohamed Pesa at the Caesars Palace in Dubai and being ranked 4th in the BoxRec Lightweight rankings, he has already come a long way and is driven to go even further!
In this exclusive interview with SPOGO, Karthik Sathish speaks about his boxing journey, overcoming challenges, experiences at the Army Public School in Bangalore, Mr. Mujtaba Kamal’s role in his career, being an inspiration and future goals.
Q 1) As someone who started his professional boxing journey in 2019, when were you first introduced to boxing? What about the sport motivated you to take it up professionally?
I started boxing accidentally and just like every Indian kid, I started playing sports with cricket. I came across someone giving free boxing lessons and just out of curiosity I decided to try it out. As my interest grew, I started boxing everyday, that’s how my journey started and boxing changed my life.
Q 2) How was the experience that you gained at the Army Public School in Bangalore? How did that benefit you in your professional career?
It was very challenging for me because after boxing for only one year I was selected for the Army Public School and my trainer was the National Chief Coach for the Under 19 team. Training under him was pretty hard and all my colleagues were from different states. There were people from Haryana, Manipur, Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and it was a new experience for me to use my skills in training with other people. You learn many new things when you train with other people and they pushed me hard to improve. It was a good experience overall and helped me improve my skills in different ways. I gained knowledge about boxing from people who were from different places and it was an honour to train with such experienced people and it motivated me to train hard. It made it easier for me to compete at the state and national level because of this experience. There were 40-50 people all over India and it taught me not to be intimidated by who I’m competing against because I was used to training with different people in my hostel.
Q 3) How important of a role has your mentor and coach Mr. Mujtaba Kamal played in your career?
I would really like to thank him, because when I was under another sponsorship and I was playing amateur boxing, I was in a difficult situation where I was working to support my family and at the same time pursuing a sport that had given me respect, knowledge and achievements so I could not give it up. Mr. Mujtaba Kamal gave me a job and gave me a path where I could compete in boxing professionally. Whatever I’m doing today in my professional boxing career is because of Mr. Mujtaba Kamal. He is my mentor, trainer and a promoter as well. At the end of the year I will be competing for the Asian title belt and he is making a roadmap about everything that I need to do today or tomorrow that I will follow for the next three years. I’m very thankful to him.
Q 4) What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your career so far? How did you overcome them?
I started amateur boxing at the Army Public School and it was challenging for me to train there. The people were very strong both mentally and physically. I was very young at the time too and I didn't know how to react or how to take them on. Facing that kind of level at such an early stage for myself taught me a lot of lessons and I ended up learning a lot.
I was responsible for my family as well, I needed to support them and I went through a lot of tough times, and because of all that there was a time where I wasn’t able to focus properly on boxing or my work. I lost my focus as I was living as a bachelor by myself in Bangalore and not only did I have to work, box and train, I also had to look after myself. I had to cook for myself and do the daily chores with no help from anyone else whatsoever.
I find myself fortunate to be a part of Simply Sport because if it wasn’t for them I would not have got all the nutrients and supplements that my body needed to perform, they provided me with the mental support I needed to be strong and to be a good boxer. They made available for me everything and anything I needed to focus on myself and my future goals as a sportsperson.
Q 5) As the first boxer from Tamil Nadu to compete in the Under 19 World Cup, how do you hope to promote the sport in the state and mentor junior boxers?
I am very proud of myself for becoming the first ever boxer from Tamil Nadu. I want to make sure that I am not the last. So far, there has been no upcoming boxer from Tamil Nadu except me but I try my best even the smallest of Championships so that people see me and get inspired. I want kids from Tamil Nadu to train and get so good that they participate in higher level competitions. I want to make boxing popular so that people become aware of the sport and want to participate. The hope of even becoming a small role model to someone pushes me to do better and I hope that someday I can inspire that.
Q 6) What are your goals and aspirations for the future? How would you like to accomplish them?
That is a two part answer. I have set a small scale 1 year goal for myself alongside the big goal. As of now, I want to compete at the Asian Championship Belt and win it. Once I’ve achieved that I'll become number one in Asia in Pro Boxing. Then, I will move into amateur boxing and participate in the 2024 Olympics. So far I’m getting full support from the Simply Sport Foundation. Anything that I might need in terms of mental support, nutrition, fitness or whatever I get it all from them.
Once I’ve won the Asian title I will participate in the national championship to compete for a position in the national team. I will then participate in the Commonwealth Games and that will lead me to the 2024 Paris Olympics.
If you wish to support Divya in any of the areas to see her excel, then please reach out to Simply Sport https://www.simplysport.in/donate.
You can write mail to them at email@example.com.
My ambition is to fulfill my father’s dream of winning an Olympic medal - Indian boxer Gaurav Bidhuri
From being a formidable boxer with an impressive CV of winning the bronze at the World Boxing Championships in 2017, the 2nd Indian to win on his debut and the 4th overall, to being a motivational speaker and vlogger, Gaurav Bidhuri is a man of many talents. Winner of the Boxing Award of the Year in 2018, he has been nominated for the Arjuna Award for three consecutive years between 2018 to 2020 and became the only Indian boxer to have featured with the Italy team in 2015 and the USA team in 2016. The word impressive doesn’t come close to defining this career so far.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Indian boxer Gaurav Bidhuri speaks about how it all began and taking up boxing professionally, his ultimate goal, overcoming challenges, boxing idols and the importance of mental resilience.
Q 1) How old were you when you first started boxing? Who introduced you to the sport and what motivated you to take it up professionally?
I started boxing when I was 7 years old. My father, Dharmender Bidhuri was a national level boxer and also my coach. It was his dream to represent India at the Olympics and win medals, but due to family problems he could not continue his boxing career. Despite that, his love for boxing couldn’t keep him away from the sport and he started a boxing club where he used to train local people for free!! That’s where I started my boxing career, at the Bidhuri Boxing club. My father’s dream is my dream and I would like to win medals at the Olympics to fulfill his ambitions as well as mine.
Q 2) What are the various tournaments that you have participated in so far and what is your ultimate goal?
The first competition that I won was the Junior Delhi State Boxing Championship in 2004. That’s how my journey began and soon I won many more State and National Championships. My first International competition was the Junior World Boxing Championship in 2008 and brought laurels for our country and many Junior and Senior International competitions. Today I’m a world medallist and my aim is to win a medal for India at the Olympics.
Q 3) What are some of the challenges that you have faced in your journey so far? How did you overcome injuries with a positive mindset?
From the perspective of others, I’m a world medallist and have created history, but just like any other sportsman, I have endured hard times and faced criticism. When I started boxing, everyone was against it and my family members would accuse my dad of spoiling my life. My dad ignored their comments and kept training me and it is because of his hardships that I reached the state levels. After that, I worked hard to become the champion in my first sub junior Delhi State Championship. We had trials for the National Championship the very next day and I got selected after defeating everyone. We were about to leave for Bhilai the next morning but that night, the people at the Federation replaced my name with another boxer. Nobody helped us when we looked for help but that’s when the real journey began.
I played many National Championships later and won the gold medal and represented India at the Junior International event. I lost in the quarterfinals and could not get a medal because of which people back home criticized me for not performing at the international level. However, I didn’t give up, remained patient, believed that my time would come and beat some of the best boxers at the World Championships to win the bronze medal.
Also read: International Boxing Association increases bout reviews per team to 3, no fee to be charged either
Q 4) Who were some of your boxing idols growing up and why?
My idols when I started boxing were Mary Kom Didi and Vijender bhai (Vijender Singh). The latter has really inspired me as he has achieved medals for India at the biggest events and has also been involved with modelling, acting etc. Athletes disappear after achieving so much after they leave sports, which is why I’m involved in motivational speaking, guest appearances, modelling, being involved in media and so on. I hope to act in movies in the coming years.
Q 5) How important of a role does mental resilience play in becoming a successful boxer?
We have learnt the importance of the body and mental strength during the pandemic. Those who are weak mentally have suffered at this time and being a sports person, I have to be strong both physically and mentally. An athlete's life is full of ups and downs but it’s important to overcome them and keep moving forward. I have faced a lot of things in my boxing career and I use that experience as a motivational speaker.
Boxing sensation Poonam looks to continue unbeaten streak at International tournaments
Excelling at any sport requires hard work, dedication and sacrifice, essential qualities that an athlete reaps the rewards of after many years. For Indian boxer Poonam, she also had to sacrifice a life changing job opportunity to venture into the unknown world of international boxing at the Youth World Championship in Kielce, Poland. Hailing from a humble farmers background in Haryana, Poonam not only chose to follow her passion, but made headlines in boxing news around the world by bringing home a gold medal in the featherweight 57 kg category after defeating Sthelyne Grosy of France. What makes her achievement even more impressive is that Poonam remains unbeaten at the international stage, having won five bouts at the Youth World Championship.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Poonam speaks about her introduction to boxing and taking it up professionally, overcoming challenges, winning gold in Poland, training during the lockdown and future goals.
Q 1) How old were you when you started boxing and what motivated you to take up the sport professionally?
I started playing sports with Basketball but I was introduced to boxing when I was 12 years old. My father used to take me for training in my early days but eventually I told him that I would like to go on my own. Initially, I found it difficult to maintain my interest in boxing, but over time I started enjoying the sport and decided to take it up professionally.
Q 2) How difficult was it for you to decide between Railway trials or going to the Youth World Championship? What made you choose boxing?
I got very confused when my Railway trials and the Youth World Championships coincided with each other, because I was not sure which one to choose. When I asked my family what would be the right decision, I received mixed responses from all of them. It was a stressful period for me and everyone around but eventually my father told me that I should go to the Youth World Championship. He said that an athlete should focus on the sport they have been training for, there would be plenty of opportunities to get a job in the future. That’s what made me choose boxing and I won the gold medal because of that decision.
Q 3) As someone who comes from a village in Haryana, what are some of the challenges you faced in your journey? How did you overcome them?
For any new boxer, they face some challenges with regards to food, access to sports equipment. Getting access to the facilities is also a very big challenge because without it, you cannot progress as a professional boxer. I also faced such problems but everything became a lot easier when I got a bank job. After that, I could afford food, shoes, sporting equipment and I could fully focus on the sport because my other necessities were taken care of. In hindsight, I did not have to sacrifice too much or face many problems in my journey because my sister took care of a lot of things. She asked me if I wanted a job and gave me everything that was required, which is why my sister was the biggest support system. Apart from that, my family also encouraged me to pursue my passion.
Q 4) How was the experience of winning a gold medal at the World Youth Championships? Who are the people who have helped you in your journey?
When I won the gold medal at the World Youth Championship, I was very happy. It was a great feeling to win the gold medal which I would like to dedicate to my coaches, because they have trained me well which is why I have accomplished this feat. I would also like to thank the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) and Khelo India for giving me access to their training center during the lockdown. My family also deserves this medal as they have made me who I am today.
Q 5) How did you continue training during the COVID-19 lockdown? What is your training routine?
Unfortunately, the lockdown has begun again and all the training centers are shut. I have been training at home with my brother on the roof from morning until evening.
Q 6) What is your ultimate dream and aspiration for the future? How do you plan to achieve it?
My plan for the future is to continue going forward like I have at the World Youth Championship. My dream is to represent India at the Olympics and win a gold medal. To accomplish this, I am 100% dedicated to my training, following my strict diet and giving my all.
I give my 100% everywhere I go - Alfiya Pathan, boxing gold medallist
It’s rare to see a talent make as much impact in their debut international tournament as Alfiya Pathan. A special talent that announced her presence to the global boxing scene by winning a gold at the AIBA World Youth Championship, Pathan has shown her relentlessness, technique and aggression against more experienced opponents and has shown time and again her ability to come out on top.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Alfiya Pathan, the world 81+ kg champion speaks about her introduction to boxing, representing India globally, defeating Kazorez Daria, her coaches, inspirations and future goals.
Q 1) When were you first introduced to boxing and what motivated you to pursue the sport despite your family’s reluctance?
I started boxing in 2016, before that I used to play badminton for 2-3 years at Mankapur Stadium during the summer vacations. I used to play badminton to maintain my fitness while my brother joined boxing and when I used to see him fight, I noticed that there were other girls participating in boxing as well. This motivated me to pursue the sport and I did my utmost to convince my family at home to let me participate in boxing and they eventually agreed. I was also really inspired by the Mary Kom movie that had just released when I started boxing and that motivated me even further.
Q 2) How was the experience of representing India at the AIBA Youth World Championships?
I had a really good experience at the AIBA Youth World Championships. The Indian team got 7 gold medals and I felt a great deal of pride and happiness at our accomplishments. AIBA did a fantastic job in organizing the tournament, especially because of the COVID-19 situation. The World Championships were held with all the precautions, we were not in close contact with anybody and the social distancing norms were followed.
Q 3) How proud are you of winning a gold medal in your debut Youth World Championship? How challenging was your opponent Kazorez Daria?
I felt very proud and happy for winning one of the 7 gold medals at the Youth World Championship. It was my first Youth Championship so winning the gold medal has been a very good feeling. My opponent, Moldova’s Kazorez Daria in the finals, is someone who I also faced in Montenegro so I didn’t feel the pressure because the clash had been one-sided before and I was confident I would beat her this time as well. I ended up defeating her 5-0.
Q 4) How much of an influence has your coach Purohit played in your journey so far?
My coach, Mr. Ganesh Purohit has been hugely influential for me. He taught me the basics of boxing and has been a part of both wins and losses in my journey so far. When I was at the camp for 6 months before the Youth World Championship, I would share videos with him to get his feedback and he would give his valuable insights. He has been very influential and a source of motivation for me to achieve more.
Q 5) How was it to work under Junior’s boxing coach Amanpreet Kaur? What did you learn from him?
I was with Amanpreet ma'am during my juniors and she perfected my basics. She taught me all the technicalities that one is not able to learn at lower or grassroot levels but at Junior level camps. I learnt a lot from her, especially the most important value of discipline. I believe a sportsperson is nothing without discipline. I was very happy to learn from her at my juniors.
Q 6) Who are the boxers that inspire you to push your boundaries? What are the skill sets required to be a champion?
I started boxing after seeing my brother. He inspires me everywhere, pushes and encourages me a lot and is my biggest supporter. I believe hard work, dedication and giving your hundred percent everywhere is what goes into being a champion.
Q 7) What are your goals for the future? What is your message to girls who aspire to become boxers?
My future goal is to represent India at the Olympics and win a medal. My message to all the girls playing or wanting to play this sport is to be consistent and never give up. When you learn something new, you can't master it on the first day, but keep practising and improving yourself everyday without giving up on it. It's important to tell yourself that you can do it and keep motivating yourself.
Winning gold at the AIBA World Youth Championship is my proudest achievement - Gitika Narwal
Gitika Narwal may have won the gold medal at the AIBA Youth World Championships, but her most impressive victories so far are the innumerable obstacles the boxer from Haryana has overcome to pave her journey to glory. For a boxer that trained with a punching bag hanging from a tree, Gitika has impressed the world with her brilliant technique and precision to overcome her opponents.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, the gold medallist in the 48 kg light fly category spoke about her introduction to boxing, the most important figure in her journey so far, the boxer she idolized growing up, facing Natalia Dominika in Poland, the challenges she has overcome, training from home and her message to girls aspiring to take up boxing professionally.
Q 1) When were you first introduced to boxing and what motivated you to take up the sport professionally?
Ans: I started boxing in the year 2015 and despite not having much knowledge about the sport, I learnt the nuances of the game. I used to watch Mary Kom and Muhammad Ali’s fights on the phone which inspired me to become a boxer like them and make my country proud. I have a passion for boxing and winning at the sport which is why my coach pushed me to my limits and helped me be where I am today.
Q 2) From practicing on a punching bag hanging on a tree to winning gold at International tournaments, you have come a long way. Who are the people who have helped you in your journey so far?
Ans: It’s true that I used to practice boxing on a punching bag hanging on a tree because I did not have access to facilities. My coach, who is the most important person in my career so far, has led me to where I am today. He also recommended that I hang my punching bag on a tree simply because that was the only way I could train.
Q 3) Which are some of the boxers you idolized when you were growing up?
Ans: I admire Mary Kom and used to watch her fights on my phone. Ever since I have been interested in boxing, I have idolized Mary Kom and she has inspired me to be where I am today.
Q 4) You had a dominant 5-0 against Natalia Dominika of Poland in the AIBA Youth World Championships. Who are the toughest contenders you have ever faced?
Ans: Poland’s Natalia Dominika at the AIBA Youth World Championships was the toughest opponent I have faced so far. I may have won 5-0 but that was also because I was relentlessly attacking her without giving her an opportunity to fight back. If I would have eased off, who knows if I would have won, especially by such a margin?
Q 5) What are the challenges that you faced in becoming a professional boxer? How did you overcome them?
Ans: I did not have boxing gloves or other training equipment. Nevertheless, I worked really hard and trained three times in a day, as I was determined to earn a name for my village and my country someday so yes I had to put in a lot of effort for all this.
Q 7) How have you been preparing with the COVID-19 restrictions? What is your exercise regime?
Ans: Ever since the lockdown has begun, I've been training at my home due to the pandemic. I have a younger sister who is into wrestling so I train with her everyday.
Q 8) Which is your proudest accomplishment in your career so far?
Ans: Winning the gold medal at the AIBA Youth Championship in Poland is my proudest accomplishment so far.
Q 9) Is there any message you would like to convey to girls who aspire to be boxers?
Ans: The message I would like to convey is that girls are now provided with the right support from the federation, society and their families therefore they should actively take up the sport of boxing.
Indian boxer Vinka sets her sights on gold at the 2024 Olympics
Vinka is one of India’s most promising youth boxers, having won various honours at both the national and the international level. Despite the odds and challenges Vinka has faced in her journey so far, she has emerged victorious just like her exploits in the boxing ring due to her unwavering focus and determination. She’s truly an inspiration to not just women, but for anyone who wishes to follow their dreams.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Vinka speaks about an accident she suffered at an early age, proving her doubters wrong, the importance of mental resilience, her achievements and goals and aspirations for the future.
Q1) You suffered 25 stitches after falling from the terrace at a very young age. What motivated you to pursue sports even after the doctors advised you not to?
Ans: When I suffered 25 stitches at a young age, nobody motivated me to play nor was I interested in pursuing it as a profession. Our background is not very good and when my father enrolled me in a school in Panipat, we could not afford the fees. We were told that if I become a national champion then fees would be exempted for me and since my father played his part in getting me admission, I decided to help him by training as a boxer. That’s where my interest grew and unlike a team sport where the results are also dependent on the efforts of your team mates, individual sports like boxing is about your own talent and hardwork. Despite being told women cannot do boxing, I decided to become a professional boxer by any means necessary.
Q2) How difficult was it to pursue your passion for boxing while growing up? How did you overcome those challenges?
Ans: When I started boxing, my family supported me in anything I chose to do, but my relatives and other people in the village could not accept that a girl could participate in boxing. I had odd timings because I would leave at 5 am and would return home by 9:30 pm and it used to bother them that I would come so late. I was afraid that my father would get influenced by what others were saying and stop me from boxing but thankfully he ignored them. In the beginning when I competed in some tournaments, I didn’t win medals and my doubters reiterated that a woman should not participate in boxing and it’s a waste of time. As time went by and I started winning medals, they said that we had such a necessity that even a woman had to participate in boxing and that winning medals in the women’s category was easy and that’s why I was successful. Now that I have started winning at the National and International level, they have become my fans and lifelong supporters. Since I started until now, I’ve had to struggle and it was very difficult for me but now everything is fine.
Q3) How important of a role has mental resilience played in your journey as a professional boxer?
Ans: Being mentally strong is very important. When I suffered 25 stitches and was advised to never play sports again it was only because of my mental strength and determination to be successful irrespective of my family’s background that I managed to become a professional boxer and prove my doubters wrong.
Q4) You have won numerous awards at the National and International stage. Which is the achievement you are proudest of?
Ans: I'm proud of everything I have achieved so far since I have struggled and worked really very hard for it. I'm the most proud of my Asian and World medals.
Q5) How has COVID-19 impacted your training? How are you preparing for future tournaments?
Ans: We're facing a lot of trouble due to COVID-19 as we are not able to train under the guidance of our coaches. Boxing, despite being an individual sport, does require a partner and we are not able to train together. We are not able to get equipment and are unable to try new things as you never know we might not do it properly and it in turn causes injuries or any other problems. We are strictly following our online training program and taking care of our fitness. We are continuously practicing and training for the skills we have already learned so we can improve them even more for the future.
Q6) What are your goals and aspirations for the future?
Ans: All I want is to continue to perform like this, step by step, even in the senior category. I'm also looking forward to performing well in the Commonwealth Games 2022. I want to represent India in the 2024 Olympics and win a medal for my country.
Ace boxer Sachin is hungry for more success after winning gold in Poland
Focus, determination and a relentless pursuit to success. These are a few words that describe Sachin who recently won a gold medal in the 56 kg final at the Youth World Championship in Kielce, Poland. Hailing from Bhiwani, Haryana, the 18 year old seemed unfazed in his first international tournament and was the only male boxer to win gold.
Sachin’s story originates from humble beginnings in a tiny village called Mitathal. “I started boxing six years ago in my village. Anil Ahlawat was my coach and he got me enrolled in boxing. We worked really hard, my family also supported me, took great care of my diet and rest and that helped me in my game,” recalls Sachin fondly. From a village in Haryana to achieving a gold at the Youth World Championship, Sachin has come a long way and continues to set his sights higher. “I learnt a lot from my first international tournament. There were many talented boxers participating in the tournament which added to my experience. Their strength and technique was great and I had great fun competing with them” said Sachin about his experience in his first major international tournament.
Sachin achieved his gold medal in a nerve biting final as he went toe to toe and matched the punches of Kazakhstan's Yerbolat Sabyr in the Men’s 56 kg final. Speaking about his formidable opponent, Sachin said “Sabyr is a very good boxer, he is also left handed like me and is a champion fighter. My coach studied his technique and game plans which helped us devise a good counterattack against him. It was a great fight indeed.”
Sachin draws inspiration from Vijender Singh who also originates from Bhiwani, Haryana. The 18 year old boxer hopes to emulate Singh’s glorious achievements and sets himself to that benchmark. “Vijender Singh has been a great boxer and his punches were really powerful. He has made India proud with his achievements and I have been inspired by him to achieve medals for our country,” says Sachin.
It’s been a bright start to Sachin’s career who will hope to continue his momentum in future tournaments. “I have made my village, parents and coaches proud and I feel very happy that my village has a happy and positive atmosphere. I want to achieve medals and honours for our country and work hard. My advice to aspiring boxers would be to get adequate rest, eat healthy and set their sights high,” says the gold medallist.
Sachin has created history by becoming the first Indian male boxer since 2016 to win a gold medal and with the International spotlight shining on the 18 year old, he will hope to continue exceeding expectations and bringing more glory.
My goal is to win a gold medal at the World Boxing Championship
Boxing sensation Arundhati Choudhary recently made history to become the first ever female boxer from Rajasthan to clinch a gold medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championships. She has come a long way from being an IIT aspirant to a state level basketball player and now a renowned boxer and is setting her sights higher to achieve more glory.
In an exclusive interview with SPOGO, Arundhati Choudhary speaks about her journey so far, winning the AIBA Youth World Championships, the importance of mental health, her future goals and advice to the next generation of boxers.
Coming from IIT city of India Kota, how did you end up playing Boxing?
I used to play basketball in the fifth grade and due to my height my physical training teacher selected me for basketball. I have played state level Basketball as well. When I was named in the Nationals, my father said that I could perform really well in solo sports because in a team game one needs team support and suggested three sports - Boxing, Wrestling and Badminton. I have been quite aggressive in my nature right since my childhood. I asked him about each of the games and when he told me about boxing, I was so fascinated by it, that I decided to pick the sport as it compliments my nature really well and I can truly perform well.
How did it feel to script this historic win at the AIBA Youth World Championships ?
I'm really very happy. I was a part of the Indian team which in itself was a matter of great joy for me and the fact that I also played a role in history that our Indian girls scripted by winning 7 gold medals makes me happy. I'm very thankful to BFI, SAI, (Rohtak), Rajasthan Boxing Federation and my Academy for supporting me so much. It is because of them that I was able to achieve a gold medal.
How did you prepare for the Championship given the Covid-19 restrictions in India?
Yes training in the pandemic was quite difficult, but I worked really hard. No doubt the COVID situation was tough for a lot of people including me but from a training point of view, it went really well. My father has built a boxing hall for me in the school he is a chairman of and I worked very hard in it. I would train two times a day - in the morning and in the evening as my only target was winning gold in the World Championships.
You have won three gold medals at the Khelo India Games and won gold medals in 60 kg, 66 kg and 69 kg categories. What is your most special achievement so far?
Yes, I have won gold medals in all three Khelo India Games. However, speaking of special achievements, the World Championship was the most special one because while we had an Asian Championship in 2019, I wasn't keeping well and because of that I wasn't able to perform well and could only win a bronze medal. I was pretty upset that I could only bag a bronze medal for my country when I was totally capable of winning the gold. Nevertheless, up till now the most special of my achievements were the Youth World Championship only.
How big of a role does mental health play in a boxer's life?
Mental health plays a very important role in a boxer's life. You can’t do anything without being mentally strong and a boxer has to learn both winning and losing. It’s a lot more difficult to remain strong when you lose but it’s more important because the challenges increase. We have to improve our level, train harder so mental health plays a very important role.
Who are the Boxers you look up to as your idols?
I don’t have other boxers as idols because I believe that if I see someone’s struggle in front of my eyes, I consider them my inspiration and role model. I have heard of other boxers but I have seen the struggle of my parents and coach in front of my eyes which is why my inspiration is my father because he has struggled a lot and continues to do so to this day. He has complete faith that the struggles he is going through today will lead to a big accomplishment in the future and I share his mentality.
What are you next looking forward to? How do you feel about being selected for the senior training camp in Pune?
I’m very happy about my selection in Pune because I’m getting the chance to work alongside renowned players such as Mary Kom and Lovlina because I’ll get to learn their techniques and make improvements on my mistakes with their guidance. My target is to get selected for the World Championships which will be held later this year and win a gold medal for our country.
Any message for the youngsters, especially girls who aspire to have a career in boxing?
Discipline is extremely important for boxers along with determination and dedication. Without the desire to win it’s impossible to be competitive in this sport. Discipline is also fundamental because without maintaining a proper diet and getting adequate rest, it will be impossible to achieve anything. It’s important to have the 3D’s which stand for discipline, determination and dedication.