Interview with Mandeep Jangra: "Provide jobs to all national medallists"
Mandeep Jangra was in for a ‘pleasant surprise’ when news trickled in that he will be bestowed with the coveted Arjuna Award. The 22-year-old Haryana boxer is perhaps one of the youngest boxers to be honoured with the Arjuna Award. Mandeep, who won a silver medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, is focusing on the upcoming Asian Amateur Boxing Championships. Mandeep, who is employed with Railways as a Senior TT, spoke in an exclusive interview.
Q: At 22, you were probably the youngest boxer to receive the Arjuna Award. Your thoughts.
A: Well, I did not expect to be awarded with the coveted Arjuna Award so early in my boxing career, but at the same time feel happy and honoured with the same. I hope this honour will spur me to scale new heights in the ring for India.
Q: You just returned home from a training stint in Italy ahead of the upcoming Asian Amateur Boxing Championships to be held in Bangkok.
A: The training stint in Italy was really good. I was able to spar with some top quality boxers along with organised fitness sessions. The scientific way of training in Italy will surely stand me in good stead for the future.
Q: How do you assess your chances for the upcoming Asian Amateur Boxing Championships?
A: I’m bullish about doing well this around – I had won a silver medal in the last edition in Amman and have fond memories of that tourney. Hope to go one better in the 2015 edition.
Q: The 2015 World Championship and the 2016 Rio Olympics are two major events happening in next twelve months.
A: The World Championship and Rio Olympics are the two biggest events – winning medals in these events is much more than winning medals in any other event, not that those other events are lesser in significance.
Q You box in the welterweight category (69-kg) – who are the world’s best boxers in your weight category?
A: Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov is the boxer to watch out for in my category. He is the current world champion and the current Asian Championship gold medallist. I had lost to him in the final in Amman in 2013 and will be facing him in the 2015 edition in Bangkok. Then, there are couple of boxers from Cuba and Ukraine, who are really solid, if I can outbox these boxers, I’m hopeful of making my country proud in the World Championship and Rio Olympics.
Q: Administration of Indian boxing has been in a mess, but our boxers have still managed to do well in international competitions. How well are you financially supported?
A: I have been fortunate to get all required support from government authorities, Anglian Medal Hunt Company and Adani group.
Q: Akhil Kumar has been your mentor- how much you owe your success to him?
A: He is everything for him. He was the one who told me to return to Haryana and train there when he met me in Pune in 2008 when I was a trainee boxer with the Army Sports Institute (ASI). My dad initially did not like the idea of quitting the Army job but later agree as I left Army and went back to Bhiwani to train under Akhil’s wife Poonam Beniwal – a former flyweight category national champion herself and was later mentored by Akhil. It is also nice that Akhil will receive the Arjuna Award on my behalf on August 29th as I will be busy playing in the Asian Boxing Championships in Bangkok.
Q: How is insecure is an amateur boxing career is India?
A: It is actually. Boxers put in a lot of effort through the junior ranks and only one boxer can represent the country in each weight category. I feel strongly about the country’s second, third or fourth ranked boxers in each category because they are easily forgotten once the senior nationals and the national trials are over. Sometimes, these talented boxers suffer serious injuries and no one comes to their aid as everything seems finished for them.
These boys struggle to find jobs to sustain themselves and are forced to give up the sport disillusioned. I want to appeal to the government to provide jobs to all medallists of senior nationals or else these boys would resort to nefarious ways like goondagiri, etc. Providing government jobs to all medallists of senior nationalists can also shore up the bench strength of each weight category of Indian boxing.