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Boxing

Deepak Kumar pushes beyond Amit Panghal's shadow, eyes India's first World Championships gold

22-year-old Deepak Kumar eyes to become India's first-ever world champion foregoing the shadows of Amit Panghal, says the boxer in an exclusive conversation.

Deepak Kumar (Source: Boxing Federation of India)
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Deepak Kumar (Source: Boxing Federation of India)

By

Md Imtiaz

Updated: 2021-10-21T23:31:03+05:30

If one assesses the results of the Indian boxing contingent at the Tokyo Olympics, Lovlina Borgohain's bronze medal became the only satisfactory anecdote one would remember in an otherwise lackluster campaign.

An unprecedented nine Indian boxers — five men and four women — made the cut for the showpiece, with Lovlina Borgohain securing the lone medal, India's first in nine years, by advancing to the semifinals.

Handed tricky draws, the men could log just one win — through debutant super heavyweight Satish Kumar — while world No 1 Amit Panghal (52kg) was among those who lost in the opening round.

Tokyo was a marked improvement, but what about the fact that none of the men could make the medal rounds in Japan? It brought major scrutiny. Largely, the most successful Indian boxer Amit Panghal, a silver medallist at the 2019 World Championships, Asian Games gold medallist, and the top seed in Tokyo, ended his outing on a disappointing note.

While Panghal succumbed to pressure during the Olympics, one boxer who was probably ruing the missed opportunity, saddened by their outcomes, was Deepak Kumar Bhoria. The gold medallist at the Men's National Boxing Championships 2021, Deepak won his second straight title at the nationals this year. Also, in the course of winning the gold, he didn't lose a single round and was adjudged the best boxer in the competition.

Deepak Kumar with his coaches

The boxer who was living under the shadow of Panghal in the same weight category of 51kg is ready to punch above his weight at the Men's Boxing World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia, which starts on October 24.

The 22-year-old was at his best in June this year, when he beat the then reigning World and Olympic champion Shakobdin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the men's 52kg semifinal bout at the 72nd Strandja Memorial Tournament — a feat which is yet to be accomplished by the mainstay Panghal.

"When I went into the ring against Zoirov, I always had in my mind that only if I beat him, people will know me. I will get recognised. After all, he was the best boxer. I had to go all out, which is what I did. This was the semifinal bout. And I stepped up in all the aspects of my game," says Deepak in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.

Deepak Kumar at the Strandja Memorial in Bulgaria (Source: BFI)

The World Championship would be the litmus test for Deepak. A medal could ensure he remains a hot pick among the category dominated by Panghal for quite a significant roster in 2022. Panghal, to date, remains the only silver medallist boxer at Worlds. Deepak eyes to eclipse his senior and set higher goals. "It's been a dream of mine to win a gold medal at the Worlds. No one in India has ever lifted the World Championship medal. I have been waiting for this opportunity and studying the top players through their bout videos," expresses Deepak.

Son of a home guard, Deepak hails from Hisar – the 'City of Steel' of India, which has produced another Indian boxing great, Vikas Krishan Yadav. Deepak started his career in 2008 coming from a modest background when his uncle Ravinder Kumar, who knew a few boxers, helped him to join an academy. When he was finding it difficult to meet the expense of his training, his first coach Rajesh Sheoran started giving him free training. "I didn't start boxing hoping to be a good international boxer. But it was primarily because of finding a job and helping my family bear its expenses. In 2016, I finally got a job in the Indian army, which gave me further impetus and confidence to do well in boxing. My parents questioned my choice initially of pursuing boxing and asked me to focus on studies, but they are now able to see my success, which pleases me the most," says Deepak.

In fact, since he got his job as a Naib Subedar, there was no turning back for him. He won a silver medal at the 2019 Asian Championships and also the World Military Games the same year. There were a few brakes in Deepak's journey, which eventually robbed him of the chance of taking part in the Tokyo Games this year. In 2017, despite defeating Panghal in an inter-services competition, Deepak was knocked out in the competition (only knockout in his career so far) and suffered a concussion, which led him to miss selection trials for the national camp. Panghal made the cut and won medals in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games. While Panghal rose to be the clear favourite for the Olympics, Deepak could watch it only from the sidelines.

All is not over for the southpaw, who believes a satisfactory outing at the World Championships could open new roads for him, as he has age by his side. This time, he is motivated to the core with the mission in mind for Paris 2024. He concludes with a gleam of hope, "Only a medal in World Championships will allow me to fight for my position in the upcoming tournaments. Next year, the focus will be on Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. Amit Panghal would again be a tough competitor. But I am willing to battle all odds for the Paris Olympics. It's my parents' dream to see me win an Olympic medal someday."




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