The Capital’s sealing drive had forced a quick shutdown of the boxing federation’s office in the Capital, and among the documents that just about managed to be rescued were the travel papers of these five youngsters. “I knew a little bit about what was going on regarding the sealing, but I’m glad we made it to Azerbaijan,” said a beaming Thapa, after the squad’s return to New Delhi this morning.
“I was not nervous at all before the competition started, I had been working hard and I knew I would win a medal. I concentrated on my straight punches like I was told to and I’m very happy I won a gold in my first international tournament. The boxers there were using a lot of uppercuts,” he added.
In the final, Thapa had dispelled the challenge of a local hope, but never was the Azerbaijani’s challenge allowed to look threatening. The Indian from Guwahati outscored him in the second round, and there the contest ended, to Indian cheers. Devendra Singh won India’s bronze medal. The other members of the squad were Vikas Khatri, Vikas Yadav and Anil Kumar.
It was Mike Tyson who inspired Thapa to take up a sport that had very little support in India when he first donned the boxing gloves back in 2005. “My brother and I first became interested in boxing, otherwise no one in my family is keen on it. I had been watching Tyson while growing up, he was the reason for me taking up the sport seriously,” he says. The future, though, is where Thapa has his eyes firmly trained, and he asserts it is an Olympic medal he desires the most.
“The boys fought their bouts in a fine manner, and I’m pleased at the quality of their straight punches. There were a lot of tough opponents from countries like Russia and Uzbekistan there. Their reaction speed was excellent through the tournament,” said coach MS Dhaka, who had accompanied the team to Azerbaijan.
Fourteen teams and 128 boxers had taken part in the meet. IABF secretary general Col PK Muralidharan Raja said some of these boxers would be part of the Indian team at this year’s Youth Commonwealth Games in Pune, and there would be a trial to select the same in June this year in Maharashtra. Thapa is not eligible to participate in the Youth Games.
Olympic plans for seniors
India’s senior boxers, barring Akhil Kumar, are currently at a training camp in Patiala, from where they will head to Chinese Taipei for the AIBA President’s Cup later this month. Akhil is in South Africa for another surgery on his wrist, this time a minor one. The AIBA President’s Cup will feature only those boxers who have qualified for Beijing, and hence the quality of competition will be high. Col Raja added that the five boxers who have qualified will leave for the Chinese capital a week before the Games begin.