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India at CWG 2022: After two surgeries in two years, Sanjeet Kumar chases maiden Games success-Sports News , Firstpost

Heavyweight boxer Sanjeet Kumar’s amateur boxing career took a turn for good last year when he claimed India’s second Asian Championship gold medal stunning 2016 Olympic silver medallist Vassiliy Levit in the 91kg category.

File photo of Sanjeet Kumar. BFI

Kolkata: Heavyweight boxer Sanjeet Kumar’s amateur boxing career took a turn for good last year when he claimed India’s second Asian Championship gold medal stunning 2016 Olympic silver medallist Vassiliy Levit in the 91kg category.

The medal saved the men’s team blushes as none of his teammates, including Amit Panghal and Shiva Thapa, stood at the top of the podium that May in Dubai. The southpaw boxer felt a sense of relief that his main arm hasn’t lost its strengths after a bicep surgery in late 2019. The bicep tear, which happened during the 2019 Wuhan Military Game, ended his chances of qualifying for the Olympics as he missed the Olympic qualification tournament right before the lockdown.

The Asian medal ignited a fire within the 27-year-old pugilist for a World Championship medal, scheduled right after the Olympics. His worst nightmare, however, came back to haunt Sanjeet as he hurt his left arm again during the quarter-final bout against Italy’s eventual silver medallist Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine.

“I had to undergo surgery again,” Sanjeet told Firstpost from Ireland. “My worries turned true as I had to stay away from boxing till last March. It was a bit frustrating period as being a boxer I was unable to get into the ring.”

Sanjeet didn’t return to the competition till June, when he defeated Naveen Kumar in the Commonwealth Games trials to book his Birmingham ticket. The tournament also presents the boxer with the opportunity to grab his first major medal but Sanjeet doesn’t want to read too much into it.

“Commonwealth Games is just another competition. It holds no importance for me. I just want to get into the ring and do better. Reading too much into anything else will bring pressure,” said the 2018 national champion.

A huge admirer of 2008 CWG gold medallist Akhil Kumar, Sanjeet is clear with his ideas of aggressive boxing he wants to do in Birmingham and has put YouTube to good use by studying the videos of his possible rivals. It’s a habit he picked since making his international debut while his cousin and personal coach Sanjeev shaped him into the boxer he is today.

Trainng with Amit Panghal in Rohtak

Cousin Sanjeev, who was a former national boxer himself, was the inspiration attracting Sanjeet into boxing at Rohtak’s Choturam Boxing Academy. The teenager soon found a good friend and sparring partner in future World silver medallist Amit Panghal while they trained under Anil Dhankar. The duo train often together for a few years before Sanjeet switched to his now-retired brother’s boxing academy.

“It felt natural to follow my brother as I grew watching him box. He always believed in the boxer in me and started shaping me as a boxer before his retirement. He urged me to take heavyweight boxing as he felt my pace and footwork would have given me an advantage in the category,” said Sanjeet

A ban on the now-defunct Indian boxing federation (IABF) in 2014 brought the nation’s amateur boxing scene to a halt, forcing the upcoming boxers, including Sanjeet, to compete at the club level with no chances of reaching the team. Worried about his brother’s career growth, Sanjeev took him to a sub-junior national camp in 2015 to introduce him to the coaches, who couldn’t take him in due to the IABF ban but pointed him towards Army boxing trials in Pune.

“Sparring with the campers, I felt I am much better than them. One of the coaches Rajendra More was very impressed with my boxing and took me to Army trials in Pune, where I was selected and recruited as Hawaldar. It was a turning point for me as they helped me a lot by providing the means to train and compete with no nationals happening,” said the boxer.

Sanjeet then made it to the national camp in 2018 as he won the National Championship for the first time. Moving to the national camp brought a fresh set of challenges as he became an understudy to experience Sumit Sangwan.  It took him over a year to come out of Sumit’s shadow, whom he defeated in the 2019 World Championship trials for the first time.

His maiden appearance at the tournament saw him make a creditable quarter-final appearance as he lost to Ecuador’s Julio Castillo in Russia. Bouts with injuries amid pandemic soon after kept him away from chasing more international success that was limited to gold in France in 2020; something he may like to change in Birmingham.

“I do feel I could have won a major tournament if not for the injuries and then the pandemic but such things are always part of an athlete’s life. Is body me abhi bohot jaan hai (there’s a lot of strength in me) I am not giving up on anything,” he concluded.

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