Meet the civil engineer from Chennai, Iqbal Mohammed Irfan, who made India proud by becoming the first kickboxer from Tamil Nadu to bag the silver medal in the 74 kg weight senior category at the World Cup Diamond, WAKO World Kickboxing Championship event held at Anapa, Russia last month.
Irfan became a proficient kickboxer at an early stage winning both district and state level tournaments. He eventually paved his way into the professional scene by entering the World Championship after bagging the gold medal at National Kickboxing Championship held in Vizag.
In a one on one interview with The Indian Express the 22-year-old kickboxer said, "Like most people, I was attracted to the sport through movies and I used to watch fighting videos and off course, Mohammed Ali was a big role model.” His journey of kickboxing starts when he joined karate class at the age of just seven and gradually developed an inclination towards other martial arts.
The young enthusiast for combat sports was first introduced to kickboxing in 2013 by his then Kung Fu coach who made him meet Suresh Babu, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu State amateur kickboxing association.
When asked about Irfan's win at Anapa, Suresh emphatically mentioned, "Irfan was sincere, dedicated and wanted to achieve in the sport. We could confidently give him the toughest circuits in training and I knew he wouldn’t get scared easily. This win is definitely a boost for him. He has a long way to go."
However, Irfan still demises at the lack of support from his family as his parents believe a career in kickboxing is not a viable option for him. He further added, "Kickboxing doesn’t have recognition in our state, unlike other states. This makes it more difficult. It’s a struggle to get sponsorships and travel to other countries. I am grateful to my sponsors,” as he smiled at actor John Singh who sponsored the young kickboxer.
Irfan's trip to Russia has been of great assistance as he learned from the other fighters their techniques and helped build up the confidence that a fighter must carry before going into a match.
The graduate from Vel Tech College in Avadi is now training for the 5th Asian Indoor games to be held at Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in 2017. A selection procedure will take place after which the national squad will be declared. Irfan looks confident to make the cut and hopes to make his country proud.