Indian boxing sensation Shiva Thapa has spoken about the challenges of fighting without a boxing federation in a candid interview with ToI. The 22-year-old, who will be one of the three Indian boxers to participate in Rio, also described how he has improved since his outing in London.
“The one thing that I am working on is my aggression. I am a much more aggressive boxer now but I have to ensure that I never go overboard. Because if you lose control over aggression, you will end up looking absolutely silly inside the ring,” said Shiva Thapa, who was the first Indian boxer to qualify for the Rio Olympics.
The youngster's first Olympic outing was in London, four years ago, where he was knocked out in the first round. Thapa said that his 2012 Olympic experience was intimidating, and everything was over in a flash.
“When I went for my first Olympics, it was a dream come true. All the motivation was overwhelming and at London, I was pretty focused on winning. But, unfortunately, it got over in a flash. I was very dejected. However, I believe that there's one good thing about me which is I find something good in the most negative of situations so, I made up my mind to make it big at the Rio Olympics,” Thapa told ToI.
He also went on to claim that a lot has changed over the past four years, and that he is more confident of his ability to fight it out with the best.
“Now, I am a different person and a better boxer for sure. The last four years have been spent in making myself tougher and better. The Olympics are always a huge occasion, there is so much more we attach to it than just the competition, and any of us who have qualified who says they are not nervous, are not telling the truth. The experience I gained last time, I'm sure that will help. I hope it's going to be less overwhelming. I have now taken part in two World Championships, two Asian Championships, one Olympics, one Asian Games and one Commonwealth Games. I have fought against many different opponents, which has taken my boxing to a higher level. There is a lot more self belief in me than before. And the big stage and the spotlight does not make me nervous anymore,” he added.
Only three Indian boxers will participate in Rio compared to the eight who made their trip to London in 2012. A big reason for this fall is the absence of a boxing federation in the country. Shiva Thapa has thrown some light on the challenges the Indian boxers have been facing as they have been made to fight under the AIBA flag.
“It's been disappointing, no doubt. That's why when I won my Olympic quota in China, it was more like overcoming a huge mental battle.
“Most certainly [the uncertainty over having a federation has affected the boxers]. Getting more tournaments and exposure trips, has definitely been a hurdle in the way of many boxers. See, so much of the scoring and judging in boxing has become subjective, and you can't do much beyond what the judge has put on his scoresheet. But we have hardly got a chance to compete under these new rules. In Patiala (at the National camp), we may have the best sparring partners, but anyone will tell you that training and competition are completely different,” Thapa explained.
The Assam-born pugilist also gave an insight into what goes on in his head ahead of a big fight, on the big stage.
“When we go for a fight, it is a very quiet environment, a quiet world where you forget everything, you may even forget your name, and in that moment when they call out your country, that word "India" leaves a deep impression on my mind. I drift into a different world, a different life where all I can think is; now I need to "go and get it!" I am filled with an inspiration to see the magic of my lifetime's worth of training. The motivation for me has always been to win and on any grounds. Everything else is inconsequential,” he said.