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'Our hopes have been shattered and my family is in shock' - Boxer Manoj Kumar pleads with the Sports Minister for justice for his coach

Boxer Manoj Kumar
Boxer Manoj Kumar
Manoj Kumar
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Modified 20 Aug 2020, 20:26 IST
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Respected Kiren Rijiju sir,

From the time the names for the Dronacharya Award were announced, my whole boxing family and I have been in shock. When you became Sports Minister, we had full hope that nothing wrong will happen and that my coach Rajesh Kumar Rajound will finally be awarded for all his hard work and struggle.

But all our hopes have been shattered once again and my whole family is in huge shock that even after having so many achievements, his name is not there in the list. This whole situation came as a huge disappointment to my family as the person who is always there to motivate and boost everyone in their lives is all alone, and we as a family are not be able to boost him up and get him out of this situation.

I’m not able to understand that how such a strong willed person is not able to get himself together. Right now, I’m just thinking of what use all the awards and medals are when time and again, we have to give explanations and answers to everyone despite having all the achievements to receive an award. I’m not getting till when people from humble backgrounds are going to be suppressed by all these wrong people and policies.

I had some doubts in my mind regarding all this procedure and that’s the only reason I messaged you on Twitter and asked for an appointment, so that I can explain all my achievements to you. But you didn’t read the message and knowing about your busy schedule, I didn’t message you again.

Sir, it takes a lot of courage to speak all these things but I have to do this for my coach as his achievements and hard work are not getting recognition. This is a matter of great disbelief that no one from the selection committee and even from Sports Ministry has put forward his achievements and all the work he has done at ground level for boxing, because if they have, I have full confidence that his name would have been there in list.

This confidence of telling all these facts to you is given by some of my friends, who have full belief that once you are aware of these facts, I’ll definitely get justice for my coach. I want to tell you that I come from a very simple family and my coach-cum-mentor made me to take part in boxing.

I was in athletics before boxing and from the day I started boxing, our relation became that of a mentor and student more than anything else. He himself wanted to be an Olympian but same as me, his journey was also hindered by number of factors, some political and some financial, and then he decided to give up all his dreams for me in order to make me an Olympian.

From the very first day of my boxing practice, he gave me only one goal and that is to be Olympic medal winner. He used to show me photographs of Leander Paes, who was an Olympian at that time. Now for me to be an Olympic level player, he needed partner for me so that I can practice at my best.

He decided to get my other brother Mukesh Kumar into boxing from judo, in which he was a national level player. For this decision, he had to face the criticism of other coaches, but he said only one thing - only a champion can give competition to another champion. From that day, we never looked back and then Mukesh became a national champion.

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He was never allowed to play the nationals from Haryana, but my coach never let us feel any of this pressure and made him an international player despite all these factors. All these things I’m saying to you will be with proof, and I want all these things to come before you. He never lived a life of luxury and was always in simple clothes. There was never any brand he wore, and all this was just to give us all the facilities so that we can play and perform at our level best.

Manoj Kumar won the Gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games
Manoj Kumar won the Gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games

Sir, I want you to notice the amount of hard work and struggle I have done in boxing - no other boxer has done so. I never had a godfather in politics, and I do not come from a very rich family background. My father was a soldier who fought for the country in 1965 and 1971, and all these factors lead me to give a number of explanations and answers outside my ring also.

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I never got a chance to qualify for the Beijing Olympics 2008 despite playing the quarterfinal of the Doha Asian Games in 2006. In the 2007 Asian Championship, I won a bronze medal by defeating a boxer of Uzbekistan in my 1st bout. Even in the 2008 nationals, I defeated the 2002 Commonwealth Silver Medal winner, but I was never given the chance to qualify for the Olympics.

After that, from 2008 to 2010, I was not allowed to play any big event. Even at such conditions, my coach never let my morale go down, and then came the chance to prove myself in the form of the 2010 Commonwealth Games. I won the Gold for the country.

Even after this, I got another setback from the federation in the form of not getting selected for the Asian Games and at this condition also, my only pillar of strength was my coach. He made me stand again and fight for myself, and then in 2011, I qualified for the 2012 Olympics by defeating the World No. 4 at the time in my 3rd bout.

In the Olympics, I defeated the Asian Championship winner in my first bout and in the 2nd, I was up against a local boxer who was No. 1 at the time and I was defeated 20-16. Sir, are these not my achievements in boxing?

All this is not the end of my journey. In 2013, I again won the Bronze in the Asian Boxing Championship, but I was still not eligible for the Arjuna Award. In 2014, I had full hope that I would get the award but despite having 32 points, I was ignored for the award.

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Again, my pillar came to my rescue and fought for me, and through the judiciary, he made me Arjuna. When my name was not announced for the award, no coach from the national camp or any of the federations spoke a word in my favour. I was all alone, and today, everyone wants to get credit in their account of my achievements.

Once again, when I got my Arjuna Award from the court, all sponsors had withdrawn their sponsorship and at this point also, the only person who was there with me was my coach, and he again made me qualify for the Olympics. Even after qualifying for the Olympics, I was added in the top scheme only 1 month before the Olympics.

Another point I want to say is that from all the boxers who were in the top scheme, only two were able to qualify for the Olympics, and I qualified by winning the Bronze in the World Boxing Olympic Qualifying Championship. It was the hard work of my coach that ensured I never bowed down before all these tactics.

In the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the able guidance of my coach, I defeated the Youth Olympics gold medallist and the bronze medallist of the London Olympics. But in the next bout, I lost to the champion of the Rio Olympics by a score of 10-9.

Sir, if I had received sponsorship and the top scheme benefits that other boxers did, I would have been the winner of a medal. Is it not an achievement of my coach that I gave such a hard fight to my competitor?

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In the 2018 Gold Coast, I won the bronze medal and became the 1st boxer from India to win a 2nd medal in the Commonwealth Games. I’m one of those players who after reaching such a stage, has played inter-railway and national level events.

In 2019, I was again subjected to a conspiracy and was not allowed to play the nationals, as a senior technical (referee and judge) official of a federation wanted his relative to win. I have complained against it with all proof, but haven't received any aid till date. I was also removed from the camp and again, I had to give trials to be there in the camp.

In the boxing league, the same thing happened and was done by same person, and he tried to get my morale down by getting me defeated by young players, but again I performed well. Again, when the trials for the Olympics were held, boxers who I defeated in the boxing league were there in the trials but I was not.

Sir, I can say with all my honesty that if my coach would have not been there with me, I would have definitely not been able to win a single national tournament. This is not only me, and there are a number of other players who would have lost their passion towards the game if they had not been supported by my coach.

How can I not speak for a person who was there for me in every situation and helped me win 44 medals at the national and international levels?

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I performed well in the 2012 London and 2016 Rio Olympics, won the Gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and the Bronze in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, won the Bronze in the 2007 and 2013 Asian Championships, won the Gold in the 2016 SAF games, won the Bronze in the 2016 World Olympic Qualifying Championship. The list is very long.

For 3 years, I was the World No. 6 and to be in a sport like boxing for 23 years is not less than any achievement. I can't believe that all these achievements still do not make my coach Rajesh Kumar Rajound eligible for the Dronacharya Award.

Sir, if I was not trained by my coach at the base level, how would it have been possible for me to play and win for 23 years continuously? It was my coach who has made me this capable, from the very basic level to a world-class boxer. He is the only person who has produced 3 international and 5 national boxers from a family, and a number of other players for the country.

When Anju Bobby George’s personal trainer and husband Robert Bobby George, Krishna Poonia's personal trainer and husband Virendra Poonia, and Geeta and Babita’s personal trainer and father Mahabir Phogat ji can get the Dronacharya Award, what is the mistake of my coach?

I don’t mean to disrespect all of their struggles and contribution to the sports, as they have made their players the best. But when their struggle can get recognized, then why can't my coach? My coach’s individual achievements are no less than anyone.

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We don’t have any approach or any big names to support us, due to which despite all our achievements, we are getting ignored. We don’t have any grudges against anyone and we are not against anyone, but we are definitely going to speak against injustice to us.

I want to say to you that if in boxing, any other coach has prepared any boxer from the base level with more achievements than me, you can definitely give the award to them and I will respect your decision. But if there is no such person than I request you to definitely honour the achievements of my coach.

Sir, I want to say that every coach who nurtures a player at the grassroots level stays behind just as a shadow. Despite doing huge work with us and providing us with a platform, time and again they are not given due credit for their work. Why do name, incentives, rewards and credits go to the camp coach only and not to the grassroots coaches?

I’m saying this with respect to all the coaches who are working with players at their basic level and training them till they reach the international level. If players are not trained by these coaches, how will players come to camps and play for the country?

I want to say that my coach doesn’t have any approach and support system, but he has all the achievements that make him the perfect recipient pf the Dronacharya Award. Even all the players who have won medals in the 2010 Commonwealth Games' respective coaches have been awarded with the Dronacharya, but the wait for my coach is still on.

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Even all the players who have lessser achievements than me in the Commonwealth Games have been appointed as DSPs by their state governments. I have to face the same red trapezium in my home state again, but I still have no grudges against it and just want the achievements of my coach to be respected.  

Sir, you are making India proud in all these difficult conditions, and you are well aware of the conditions and situations of all the players. I have full faith and I believe in you. I just ask you - when there can be 2 awards in other games, why not in boxing? I hope you will definitely give due respect to my 23-year-long career.

In the end, I want to say:

My coach is everything to me. Firstly, he introduced me to boxing, and then he taught me what boxing is. He led me on the correct path, and he sacrificed many things for me and experienced difficulties along with me. He is my greatest source of inspiration and surely is my role model.

You are a ray of hope, and I believe that you will live up to your name by helping me and my coach.

Thank you,

Manoj Kumar

Arjuna Awardee


Published 20 Aug 2020, 20:26 IST
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