Manoj's Mantra: Never back down in face of adversity
By Poonam Mehra
Gold Coast, Apr 14 (PTI) His ancestry goes back to the third battle of Panipat, and Manoj Kumar, a rare Indian boxer to have claimed two Commonwealth Games medals, says his career too has been about fighting wars both inside and outside the ring.
A gold-medallist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, Manoj signed off with a bronze medal at the ongoing edition in the welterweight 69kg division after losing to England's Pat McCormack last night.
His is a rare feat which has also been achieved by a certain Vijender Singh but minus the gold medal.
The 31-year-old Manoj is exuberance personified when he gets down to talking about life and boxing. The many medals are punctuated by many stories of disappointment as well but his thoughts have never veered towards giving up, much like the small army of Marathas that fought the Afghan invaders way back in 1761.
"A Maratha in Haryana, how does that even sound? I belong to the Ror community, descendants of the Maratha soldiers who fought Afghans during the battle of Panipat. Fighting spirit runs in my veins. Giving up is never ever an option for me," said the two-time Asian Championships bronze-medallist.
"Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj never gave up, and I am admirer of him. I am a very stubborn person."
The many battles of his life include fighting for a promotion with his employers the Railways Sports Promotion Board, something that was promised to him after the 2010 CWG gold but was never delivered.
Then there are the sponsors. Despite being one of India's most consistent performers in the last decade, Manoj has never quite caught the eye of sponsors and he can't understand why.
"There are times when I have gone to them with my pile of achievements but it never seems enough for them. I have seen boxers who are less accomplished than me get sponsors but somehow, they don't warm up to me," he said.
Even his Arjuna award in 2014 didn't come without a fight. He had to move the court after being overlooked despite fulfilling the requisite criteria as per a points system put in place by the Sports Ministry.
"I have only my elder brother and coach Rajesh as my support system professionally. I am not somebody who warms up easily to anyone," a surprising comment from someone who is a player' representative in the Boxing Federation of India's executive committee.
Ask him about becoming a two-time CWG medallist and he comes up with a cynical response.
"Will it make any difference to anyone, I don't know. How many boxers can claim two medals in a multi-sport event? And one of them is a gold. But then you can't be bogged down by all this, this is where the fighting spirit comes in," he explained.
He has represented India twice in the Olympics, losing in pre-quarters on both occasions but not without delivering his signature give-it-all performances. That has, in fact, been a hallmark of his career.
"For me, every bout is a now or never moment. I can't hold back for later, what if the later never comes," he said