New Delhi, March 2
“Padhai likhai kar lo, boxing se kya milega?” — Study hard, what will you gain from boxing?
Deepak Kumar distinctly remembers this question that his parents and grandmother had posed to him when he decided that he belonged in the ring back in 2008.
Ten years down the line, he had the answers when he became a national champion in 2018. Then he won a silver in his first Asian Championship appearance in 2019 and last week, he stunned the reigning Olympics and world champion at one of the oldest and most prestigious events in Europe, the Strandja Memorial in Bulgaria. He reached the final where he had to settle for silver after a closely-fought bout.
“It was my chachaji (uncle) who felt I could be a boxer and don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. He wanted to be one but could not because there was nobody to guide him,” the 23-year-old said after returning to India.
The youngster hails from Haryana’s Hisar – the ‘City of Steel’, as they call it for being India’s largest manufacturer of galvanised iron.
The city gave Indian boxing one of its most successful names in Vikas Krishan Yadav, a two-time Olympian, a World Championship medallist and also an Asian Games champion.
Deepak is quite happy about the gradual strides he is taking towards “making it really big some day.”
“Chachaji (Ravinder Kumar) had a friend circle which was closely linked to boxing and he kind of prodded me into taking up the sport and I liked it. I am the first sportsperson in my family, such a proud feeling. And Chachaji is getting to live his dream through me,” he said.
A Naib Subedar in the Indian Army, Deepak recalled the time he brought up his interest in boxing with his home guard father and homemaker mother.
“They wanted me to focus on education. They both said: ‘What will you gain from this?’ My grandmother joined in too but then my uncle persisted and so did I. Eventually, they all came around,” he said.
“It’s not that I had a rough upbringing, I was taken care of but I always wanted to be self-reliant and help my parents. So, in my early years, I used to do the job of collection for a friend’s newspaper vending agency. No, I wasn’t a vendor myself, I just sometimes went and did the collection of payments,” he added.
“It was like earning some pocket money to take care of some of my dietary needs,” he recalled.
As for education, Deepak intends to pursue his graduation in arts, now that he has found his footing in the boxing arena.
Second time in Strandja
The soft-spoken pugilist went to Strandja for the first time. The European season-opener is a big draw for big names and he upstaged one of the biggest — world champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan — in the semifinals.
“It was huge and I can say this is the biggest medal of my career, bigger than Asian Championship because there I was competing in 49kg, which wasn’t exactly my comfort zone. 52kg is where I belong,” he said. — PTI