Saturday, June 13, 2015

Want to win Olympic medal and go out on high: Manoj Kumar


This piece was published in Sportskeeda
 
Manoj Kumar has seen many ups and downs in his boxing career to know the essence of keeping his feet firmly planted on the ground irrespective of his exploits in the ring. The 27-year-old pugilist, supported by Olympic Gold Quest, is riding high on confidence after winning the gold medal in the light welterweight (64-kg) category at the recent Doha International Boxing Championship.
The Haryana boxer, who had first shot into prominence when he won the 2008 Senior Nationals in Bhatinda beating formidable Som Bahadur Pun, had  won the gold at the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games but was ‘surprisingly’ not picked for the 2010 Asian Games held a month later. Manoj, who is employed with Railways, and ranked number six in the world, spoke about his aspirations for the upcoming 2015 AIBA World Championships among others in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts:

Q: How would you assess your gold-winning effort at the recent Doha International Boxing Championship, where India reaped a rich haul of four gold, one silver and two bronze medals?

A: The competition in the Doha International Boxing Championship was stiff as boxers not just from Asia but also from Europe, Australia, etc took part. I won my light welterweight (64-kg) final bout against Filipino’s Magliquian Nicole 3-0. I was happy with the way I boxed and the gold medal victory at Doha will surely stand me in good stead for the 2015 AIBA World Championship, which will also be held in Doha later this year.

Q: You add rich experience to the Indian boxing team – you have boxed in three Asian Games, three Commonwealth Games, three World Championships as well as the 2012 London Olympics. Which has been your best boxing moment so far?

A: Of course winning gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in front of the home crowd has to be my biggest boxing moment. The gold win was special because I was out of the national team from 2008 to 2010 and the performance helped me to cement my spot in the 64-kg category.

Q: Winning the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games should have meant an assured spot in the 2010 Asian Games, which was held a month later after the CWG, but you were surprisingly not picked for the Guangzhou Asiad?

A:I was also surprised not to be selected for the Asian Games as I was in good form at the CWG, but I was told by the selectors that the team for the Asiad was selected much in advance. I took everything in my stride and moved on.

Q: Your elder brother Rajesh Kumar was a University gold medallist in boxing, who later took to coaching and became your coach. How much influence he has had on your boxing career?

A: Today, whatever I have managed to achieve would not have been possible without the guidance of my elder brother. He is a great coach – even when I lost bouts at the national level he will also ensure I’m pumped up for future bouts and not demoralized by defeats. He has made many sacrifices to see me succeed in the boxing ring. I owe everything in boxing to my elder brother.

Q: You featured in the 2012 London Olympics and lost to Great Britain’s Tom Stalker in the pre-quarterfinals in a controversial bout – the same opponent you lost to in the quarter-finals of the 2011 AIBA World Championships in Baku.

A: I always feel that I boxed as well as he boxed. I do see the footage and keep thinking that this was bout I should have won.

Q: You were not originally conferred with the Arjuna Award for 2014, but you had to take the court route to get it.

A: I feel vindicated when the court ruled in my favour. My brother-cum-coach did all the running, meeting concerned authorities to ensure justice is done to me. I was really disappointed with Kapil Dev Sir when he cut my phone abruptly. I used to be a big fan of Kapil Dev and today I only want to know if it was his own son would he have reacted the same way he reacted when I called him up seeking justice.

Q: The 2015 AIBA World Championships is only some months away – you must be really keyed up for the occasion?

A: This will be my fourth AIBA World Championships – I have reached the quarterfinals in the 2011 and 2013 editions and had lost in the opening round in 2009. I’m extra determined to bag a medal this time around and working hard for the same. I also want to win an Olympic medal next year and say goodbye to competitive boxing on a high.

Q: You started the Manoj Kumar Boxing Academy at Kurukshetra in Haryana in 2013. Is this your way of giving something back to the sport.

A: Boxing has given me everything and I want to give something back to the sport. My elder brother Rajesh Kumar is training youngsters at my academy and I do train these youngsters whenever I have free time. Once I called it quits, I will focus on producing champions from my academy. I want to see boxers from my academy win laurels for the country.
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