This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Among the current crop of Indian boxers, there is little doubt that Laishram Devendro Singh is exciting to watch. His ‘open guard’ style of boxing has entertained boxing fans across the country in his fledgling boxing career.
Devendro, who had caught many by surprise when he as a 20-year-old romped into the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics, stunning 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medalist Pürevdorjiin Serdamba of Mongolia in the pre-quarterfinals, bagged a silver medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. The 23-year-old Manipuri pugilist talks about his hopes for the 2016 Rio Olympics as well as his chances in the upcoming Doha International Boxing Tournament among others in an exclusive interview.
Q How are your preparations for the upcoming Doha International Boxing Tournament starting in Doha, Qatar from May 19?
I’m working hard at our preparatory camp in NIS Patiala. The training sessions have come off well so far. We are adhering to what our coaches have been telling us. Doha International Boxing Tournament is an invitational event and boxers from Asia as well as from outside Asia will participate. Asia has some strong boxers from countries like China, Mongolia and Thailand. Hopefully, I will fare well in the tournament.
Q The 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship will be also held in Doha from October 8-18 – the first time the big-ticket event will be held in the Middle East.
The 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship is an important tournament for all boxers as it serves as a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Olympics. All pugilists will be vying for top honours and I will try to stay fighting free and make the cut for Rio Olympics.
Q Your are currently ranked sixth in the AIBA rankings in the light flyweight category. Will your high world ranking help you in securing an Olympic berth?
Unlike some other sports in boxing it does not matter whether you are world number one or two in your weight category, it is mandatory for all boxers to box in the qualifiers. Given this scenario, the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship attaches plenty of significance as all boxers will be training hard to seal their Olympic berths.
Q There is always so much talk about your ‘open guard’ boxing style.
I know boxing with an open guard is fraught with risks, but I prefer to look at the positives. If I execute my plans well, there is more chances of knockouts better known as RSC (referee stopped the contest). I’m comfortable with my open guard style and consider it as a vital weapon to outsmart my opponents.
Q Tell us a bit about your rivalry with Ireland boxer Paddy Barnes – you lost to him in the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics and in the final of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
He is a good boxer and I trained with him in Ireland before the 2012 London Olympics. I have lost to him twice, but at Glasgow I thought I boxed better than him and got this feeling every time I saw the video footage of that bout. But then close bouts are routine in boxing and I took the loss in my stride.
Q How disappointing it is for a boxer to lose narrowly instead of being defeated hands down?
It can dent your morale when you lose the skin of your teeth, but as far as I’m concerned I always tell myself in such situations that I must be having some shortfalls for which I lost and focus on working hard.
Q Your elder sister Sushila Devi is a former national champion. But you are often referred to as brother of Sarita Devi.
My sister Sushila used to train with me and always gives me tips. Actually, Sarita is my cousin sister and I have sparred with her and Mary Kom during my early days in boxing The confusion arises because of our surname Laishram.
Q The AIBA has come up with new boxing changes over a period of time, more significantly the scoring system. What’s your take on the new scoring system?
Well, the new scoring system will work out well for boxers, who are looking to throw punches and score points, while it will be a disadvantage for passive boxers, who like to while away their time in the ring with occasional punches. Under the new scoring system, boxers don’t even know the final result even if he has boxed well until the bout is over unlike the old scoring system where boxers, who dominate the early rounds invariably, go on to win the bout.
Q At the 2012 London Olympics, there was not much of expectations from you as a 20-year-old. Do you think you have lifted the expectations of boxing fans of winning a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics?
It’s good to know that people are having high expectations from me. I will try to put my best foot forward in the 2016 Rio Olympics and hopefully make a podium finish.