This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Shiva Thapa is feeling on top of the world after becoming the third Indian men boxer to win a medal at the World Championship. The 21-year-old Assam boxer, who missed out on an Olympic berth after losing the box-off bout narrowly to a Belarusian opponent, has three more tournaments lined up in coming months to seal his Olympic berth. The bronze medal in the World Championship is a ‘significant high’ for Shiva, who had endured disappointing campaigns in the 2014 Asian Games and 2014 Commonwealth Games.
The country’s youngest Olympic boxer now sets his sights on not just qualifying for the 2016 Olympics but also winning the coveted gold medal in the marquee event. He talks about his Olympic aspirations and much more in an exclusive interview.
A: Obviously, it feels great to win a medal in a tournament as big as the World Championship as the world’s best compete there. No quarter is given and no quarter is asked for and its cut-throat competition and I’m glad to win a medal at the World Championship after Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan Yadav won similar bronze medals in the 2009 and 2011 editions.
Q: You boxed really well to reach the semifinals of the World Championship, where you lost to Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev and then you subsequently you lost to Belarus’ Dzmitry Asanau in the box-off bout. How would you assess these two bouts?
A: I was up against a very aggressive boxer in Murodjon in the semifinals and I gave my best shot, but it so happened that he had the last laugh. But I was little surprised that I could not convince the judges in my box-off bout against Belarus’ Dzmitry Asanau. The Belarusian was trying to while away his time in the bout and was adopting more caution than aggression – I believe I had done what was needed to win the bout, but I guess it was not my day.
Q: You did not have a great 2014 – you lost to in the second round at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and you lost in the quarterfinals at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. You must be happy to come out with such a strong performance in the World Championship.
A: I was little disheartened at missing out on a podium finish in both the Incheon Asian Games and you Glasgow Commonwealth Games as I was confident about bagging a medal. I ran into eventual Commonwealth Games champion and current world champion Michael Conlan of Northern Ireland. The bronze medal in the World Championship is highly satisfying after the disappointments of 2014. I just hope we get to box for the country and not under AIBA by the time the 2016 Olympic approaches.
Q: You became the youngest Indian boxer to play in the Olympics in London in 2012 – how much has Shiva Thapa changed as a boxer?
A: I think I have become mature and richer with all the international experience I have gained all these years. I have now played two World Championships, two Asian Championships, one Olympics, one Asian Games and one Commonwealth Games and playing against different opponents all these years has taken my boxing to a higher level. There is a lot of self-belief in me than before.
Q: How has modern amateur boxing changed over the years with changing rules implemented by AIBA?
A: I think there is no place for dormant boxers who like to backpedal and move around the ring without the intent to throw punches and score points. Aggression is the buzzword – you don’t have any option but to go for the kill – attack more and ensure punches land in the desired areas.
Q: International boxing is increasingly seeing upsets. World rankings are made mockery of by lower ranked or lesser known boxers. Your thoughts.
A: Boxing is a sport where the outcome at most times is decided in the closing stages. It’s all about how a boxer performs on a given day in those three rounds. Any boxer can have a bad day in office and it is never easy to dominate all the time. Look at Murodjon – the world championship silver medallist and the guy I lost to in the semifinals had lost in the first round of the 2014 Asian Games and then there is Cuba’s Andy Cruz Gómez – another formidable boxer who was defeated in the quarterfinals of the recent world championship by Dzmitry Asanau – the guy to whom I lost in the box-off bout.
Q: You registered a famous knockout over Morocco’s Mohamed Hamout in the pre-quarterfinal bout – coach Sandhu said it was the first time in his coaching career he had seen a knockout by an Indian boxer.
A: It was a hard-fought bout and in the closing stages I threw a left punch which knocked him down and paved the way for my win. I was happy that my coach got so much joy from this win.
Q: A bronze medal at the World Championship must convince you that you can go for the gold in the 2016 Olympics – for which you have to qualify first?
A: Surely a bronze in the World Championship is an indication that I have ammunition to win an Olympic medal in bantamweight category (56 kg). 2012 Olympic gold medallist has turned pro and the competition in my weight category will now between Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan – the current World and Commonwealth Games champion, world championship silver medallist Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Cuba’s Andy Cruz Gómez and Belarus’ Dzmitry Asanau. Having boxed against them I would know what to expect from them in the Olympics.
Q: Olympic qualification is your next focus area.
A: I have a chance to seal my Olympic berth through the World Series of Boxing as well as through two Olympic qualifying events to be held next year. I’m pretty bullish about qualifying for the Olympics.
Q: Finally, you must be cherishing spending time at home after being on the road for a long time.
A: Absolutely! I have been away from home for eight months now either playing in tournaments or training in national camps. My mom is a great cook and I will try gorge on her sumptuous chicken fried rice and bhindi bhaji among others. I will be spending a few days during Durga Puja in Guwahati before I join the camp again.