Ask Vikas Kishan, the youngest Indian to win a medal in World Boxing Championship, any question related to his sport and he gives you point blank answers, almost making it seem like he is a tad bit arrogant. But before you get judgemental about him, the 19-year-old quickly makes it a point to explain that being straight forward is his nature and that you shouldn’t feel offended at any point of the interview. At that very instance, you would realise that this young boxer is here to make a bold statement and more than words he believes in making a statement through his power-packed punches.
Vikas is a humble small town boy from Bhiwani. He took to the boxing rink at the age of 13 and in just about six years of taking up the sport, he has become the second Indian to win a medal at the World Boxing Championship. Vikas won a bronze medal in the welterweight category and also sealed the berth to London Games along with compatriots Devendro Singh, Manoj Kumar and Jai Bhagwan.
With six months to go for the big games, Vikas Kishan talks about the excitement in his family about his qualification and also his preparations for Olympics. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Nandini: On Friday, you along with the other boxers who have qualified for Olympics met sports minister Ajay Maken. Any particular demands you guys made with regard to your training program?
Vikas: Yes we were called by the sports minister to discuss about our training. He wanted to know if there are no difficulties in our training. Patiala is the best training centre in the world and we told him that we are happy training here. Maybe sometime in March we will go to Kazakistan where we will have our second Olympic qualifying.
Nandini: Tell us how you developed a liking towards boxing?
Vikas: A lot of my friends were into boxing. I always heard them talk about it whenever we used to hangout. That’s how I got attracted to the sport. When I started off, I didn’t know if I could make a career out of it. I didn’t even know how to go about the punches. (smiles)
Nandini: What’s the feeling today? You are one of the most sort after boxers in the country and a lot of people recognise you world-over.
Vikas: I think my efforts are paying off now. It’s all my hard work and gods grace. My parents too have put in a lot of efforts to bring me to this stage.
Nandini: You come from the same town as Vijender Singh. Tell us about the impact his Olympic medal had on you…
Vikas: It’s only for the past two years that I have been very serious about boxing and have learnt the nitty gritty of boxing. I was only 16 when Vijender won the medal. So, I didn’t know what the medal really meant at that time and the difference it would make in my career. But obviously it’s a big achievement.
Nandini: During the World Championship, the pressure was more on senior boxers like Vijender and Akhil Kumar. You were a surprise package. Did pressure play on your mind at all?
Vikas: I think the expectations to qualify and win medals was more on seniors. I didn’t have any external pressures but I had put myself under pressure. I knew I wanted to make the qualifying at the World Championship because it would give me enough time to prepare for Olympics. I performed well under pressure where as the seniors failed to live up to it.
Nandini: It’s a known thing that the foreign boxers are much better built than Indian boxers. Is this a minus for us?
Vikas: Look, it all It depends on our diet. They eat a lot of beef and we don’t. But we have the power, we have the mind. Sometimes power wins and sometimes mind. Our game evolves around these two things.
Nandini: What is your opinion about World Series Boxing?
Vikas: WSB is interesting and quite challenging. Unfortunately, because my qualification happened a little before the WSB started I can’t take part in it. My focus is completely on Olympics. I will definitely play the next season of WSB.
Nandini: Tell us a little bit about your style of play…
Vikas: I play defensive. I am working on my power and fitness now. I am the kind who waits for my opponent to make mistakes and that’s when I capitalise. I’m a straight forward person and my game is also direct. I play for my country and I play to bring lorels for my country.
Nandini: Did you face any sort of difficulties when you started playing?
Vikas: I believe that if you want to be a good sportsperson you can do it any which ways without having to worry too much about money or infrastructure. I was lucky in a way that what ever little demands that I made my father fulfilled them.
Nandini: Now that you have qualified, what is the feeling amongst your family?
Vikas: Mine is a very simple family. The feeling amongst my family members can’t really be explained in a few words. Their only son is going to represent India at the Olympics and that is a very great thing for them. They are very excited and very happy that their son is fulling all their dreams.
Nandini: There is just too much media attention right now. How are you handling this sudden change in your career?
Vikas: You know, I play a very direct sport. Media is always after you when you do really well. And when you fail, they are again after you to give them reasons as to why you have failed. I have seen this happen with my seniors. Thankfully for me, I have shown consistent performance all along and I hope to continue to do the same. I have not given a chance for anyone to question me and I won’t give a chance in the future as well.
Nandini: Is there any senior in the team who you follow?
Vikas: Earlier I used to follow Manoj Kumar and a few other seniors. But now, I have grown up to be a senior and I want youngsters to follow me. I watch professional boxing whenever I find time and they are the real masters of the game. I like to follow them.
Nandini: Finally, what is your target at the Olympics?
Vikas: If you ask any sportsperson, they would say that their ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal but for me, I just want to give my best performance. I am not thinking of a gold but I am thinking of doing nothing but the best. I don’t want people to see India as a cricketing nation but I want people to see India as a boxing nation and that’s what I want to do this Olympics!
Vikas is an intelligent boy and was quite good in studies. It was in 2003 that I put him for boxing camp. Here in Bhiwani, there is a good stadium and when I used to go for my evening walks close to the stadium, I thought, why not get vikas enrolled for coaching.
Within a year, Vikas picked up and ended up winning a gold medal in state level and then subsequently won medals at the nationals too. He managed to do both study and boxing and this year he is in the final year of BA.
We are very excited about him getting selected for the Olympics. Myself and my wife have got our passports made recently so that we can go watch our son participate.