At first glance, Bhiwani in Haryana seems like just another village in North India with its lush green fields, a scenic countryside dotted with dhabas and liquor stalls. However, upon closer inspection, the youth in this sleepy hamlet is constantly shadow-practicing boxing moves.
Home to close to half a dozen boxing clubs, boxing in Bhiwani is a rage. Youngsters here have taken to the sport like a fish to water.
Passion is palpable in Bhiwani, so much so that it is nick-named "mini-Cuba" after a country known for its fierce boxers apart from the best cigars and Fidel Castro.
Bhiwani's dingy boxing clubs have churned out world-beaters like Vijender Singh, Pooja Rani, Vikas Krishan Yadav, Sakshi Chaudhary, and Kavita Chahal. These pugilists have put the village on the boxing world map through their hard work and numerous accolades.
The reason for this passion is simple — securing a government job through the sports quota. For some, motivation is more than a government job. Recognition at the national and international level satiates their hunger. Be it a job or a medal — they are driven by passion.
Dreams take flight in Bhiwani
Mehtab Singh, who ruled Indian boxing from 1971 to 1976 and was also the first Olympian from Bhiwani, participated in the 1972 Olympics in Munich and sowed the seeds of passion in his village. His exploits were the motivation for many, and the youth soon wanted to follow the path paved by Singh for a secure career.
At dawn, hundreds of young boys and girls start their warm-up exercises along the many dirt tracks of Bhiwani. Slowly the action moves to boxing schools until some of them are whisked away to their schools.
The full-timers start practice soon after, and by evening, the passionate crowd who are there to witness history in the making swells to a great extent.
Bhiwani Boxing Club — or BBC as it is locally known — is one of the most famous boxing schools. Started by former Asian Games gold medalist Hawa Singh, the club has been instrumental in preparing many boxers, including Vijender Singh, for sterner assignments in the days to come.
A lot of credit must go to Jagdish Singh, a celebrated coach at the BBC. A hard taskmaster, Singh swears by hard work and no compromise. His tried-and-tested methods ultimately led to many of his pugilists tasting success at the highest level.
After Vijender's exploits on the international stage, the dreams and passions of young pugilists in Bhiwani only grew. As dusk falls on the village, young boxers head home after a hard day's work only to back at it at the crack of dawn the following day, a staple routine only in Bhiwani!