Commonwealth Games: How a newspaper article on boxing changed Sagar Ahlawat's life
An article on the "Fight of the Century" in 2015 inspired Birmingham-bound Sagar Ahlawat's boxing life.
An aversion to studying accompanied by a "life-changing" newspaper article on the 2015 'Fight of the Century' between legends Floyd Mayweather Jr and Manny Pacquiao marked the beginning of Sagar Ahlawat's boxing dream.
Seven years later, the 20-year-old is gearing up for the men's +92kg super heavyweight competition at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, where he will be donning the India jersey for the very first time.
"I was not good at studies. Mere se padhai hoti hi nahi thi. (I just couldn't study) So, I started looking for something else to do after 12th class," Sagar said.
Born to a family of farmers, Sagar had no connection to sports. But one fine day, he came across a full page newspaper article about the famous bout between Mayweather and Pacquiao, considered to be one of the most anticipated sporting events in history. As he read about the two boxing greats and their achievements, it became clear to Sagar where his future lay.
"No one was into sports in my family. I knew a little bit about boxing but I felt inspired after reading about them (Mayweather and Pacquiao) and their accomplishments," said the man of few words.
He started training at the Jawahar Bagh Stadium in Jhajjar, which is some 20km away from his village Dhandlan. "I took up boxing in 2017. I trained at the Jawahar Bagh Stadium."
The Haryana pugilist wanted to make a career in boxing but had to miss training sometimes in order to help his folks at the family farm. His first big win came a couple of years later, at the All India University Games, where he won the gold medal. He followed that up by winning back-to-back titles at the Khelo India University Games.
"I competed in my first university games in 2019 where I got the gold medal. I won the gold in the Khelo India University Games in 2020 and then again the next year," the super heavyweight boxer said.
A sensational silver medal on debut at the Senior Nationals in 2021 led to his induction in the national camp at Patiala. Sagar continued his impressive run at the CWG selection trials.
He stunned Tokyo Olympics quarterfinalist Satish Kumar before downing reigning national champion Narender to book his ticket to Birmingham for his maiden international tournament.
"No, no I am not nervous (that it is my first tournament) because I have trained well. I want to fight well in my bouts," the southpaw said.
At the CWG, Indian boxers are expected to face tough competition from English and Irish pugilists among others. Sagar may lack experience but the Haryana boxer knows with absolute clarity what aspect of his game he will rely on most to win him bouts.
"I'm a bit weak on technique but my power is my strength. I will use my power to win bouts," a confident Sagar said.