How I Became a Boxer?
I grew in rough & tough Meerut. In school, boys were respected for two things: either you were solid in sports or on the wrong side of law. Academic competence meant nothing. I grew up in this culture & could be considered as good in sports. I joined NDA in 1979 & found the NDA culture respected two things: either you were good in cross-country running or you were a good Boxer. Like my school, NDA did not respect academic competence. I was average in cross-country & felt that I could learn Boxing. There were other motives also to learn Boxing:
- There was considerable physical harassment in the Squadron & I often felt that it would be good if I could lay my hands on some seniors in a fair play.
- My Divisional Officer told me that Tennis (at which I was good) was a game for girls & Boxing was a manly sport.
Overall there were three broad categories of boys who did competitive Boxing at NDA:
- Those who were known Boxers from RIMC/Sainik/Military School and were good Boxers.
- Those trying to increase their OLQ marks by displaying courage (generally they were actually low in courage!).
- Majority were those who could not avoid the
sport because of the following reasons:
- They had Boxed in school & had Boxed in the previous term.
- They were meeting the criteria (or could be starved to meet the criteria) of being below 48 kg or were a having a weight of around 75 kg (71-75 kg) was the highest weight category being competed in at NDA.
First Day of Boxing Practice
On my first day as a Boxing volunteer two important thing happened. Our Boxing team Captain was from fifth term & had won two Silver Medals in 71-75 kg weight category (my weight). He began to teach us fresh volunteers. He taught me how to take guard. The essence of the guard was that my arms were too tight & I could defend myself well but was in a poor position to hit. My mindset was: Boxing is an offensive sport. I should think about hitting & let my opponent think about defence!
It took me five minutes to decide that I have nothing to learn from him or others like him & will teach myself. This was an excellent decision.
The other thing which happened was this. I was made to spar with a fifth term guy who I hardly knew. Like me, he was also new. At that time I was keen to hit any senior & I made this guy’s face blue. He never attended Boxing training ever afterwards. I was saddened to learn later that he was the most decent senior in my Squadron. Once I found out this I resolved to always treat Boxing as a sport & not to settle scores.
Second to Fifth Term: Reserve Boxer
Chhotu is a dear friend, course mate from Navy & was a good Boxer from Sainik School Lucknow. He was in Foxtrot Squadron while I was in India Squadron. He was representing his team always & was the Captain of his team in the 6th term. During leave we Boxed at Meerut. He used to beat me up a lot. I was learning from him & others who I sparred with or watched. I also read whatever literature I could lay my hands upon. I was hooked to Boxing. I was not good enough for the team in my second term & in the fourth term I felt that the biased selection system left me out of the team. Anyway I trained with diligence. By my fourth term I could train harder than most Boxers in NDA. Training hard builds confidence. I built strength, endurance and confidence.
Sixth Term: First Competition
By now I was one of the strongest guys of my batch. I had now hung a punching bag in my cabin. I trained extra every night, apart from the evening training. I had my first bout against the Silver medalist of the previous competition. He had lot of confidence & I was expected to be beaten. I have never been intimidated by reputations & I had lot of faith in my strength, if not skills. Jaswal, my opponent totally surprised me. When the bell was struck I just turned in my corner & Jaswal was already there. We normally reach the centre of the ring & start the bout. In this bout I did not have to take even one step & Jaswal began hammering me & I closed down with my guard & took the blows on my arms for quite some time. Then he stopped & I started. Both of us forgot about movement, dodging, guarding and anything else that we had learnt. We just stood & traded blows. Being stronger I out hit him & won.
Second round opponent was a big guy (retired Chief Gen Dalbir’s younger brother). He got over-weight & I got a walk-over. Semi-final with Carriappa I will never forget. He was taller, faster and a better Boxer. He liked to connect with a few punches and kept moving away. I wanted a kind of street fight which he was not willing to engage in. In my desire to make it rough & somehow knockout this guy I got two warnings & was threatened disqualification by the referee. It was a sad loss to a nice guy who hardly even scratched me. It was hardly a bout!
IMA: Fitness I Already had; Now I had Skill To
I continued to train for Boxing after my loss & when I entered IMA I was confident of my skills as well as strength. I was the first volunteer from the NDA guys ( 2nd term) to represent Keren Company. Manu Satti is a big guy. He was a 3rd term (ex-ACC). These were his credentials:
- Had never lost in ACC in Boxing & had won almost all bouts with knock-outs.
- Basketball Captain of IMA team.
- Winner in long jump in athletics at IMA.
- One of the best goal keepers in Football at IMA.
- Rated as the best all round sportsman of his batch in ACC & later at IMA too.
To check me out the 3rd term GCs of Keren Company gathered and I was asked to spar with Manu Sir. Manu Sir used to swing big with his right hook. I just had to move my head closer to him to let the punch slip around my neck & hit him with a left cross. Within one minute Manu Sir was floored twice. The seniors were dazed. I had developed a reputation in a matter of minutes! Manu Sir & I were practically of the same weight. We decided that two weeks before the competition we will decide as to who fights in 67-71 or 71-75 kg weight category. To my surprise I found that I was slightly heavier than him & hence was to fight in 71-75 kg. Manu Sir had deliberately done this. He told me this later. From his Company in ACC was a guy, MR Yadav, who boxed in the 75 kg category & was better than Manu Sir. Like him MR Yadav had never lost & knocked out all opponents. I was also happy to fight in 75 kg because in 71 kg category was Hamilton from Jamaica. I was okay with Indians but not so confident facing a Jamaican!
Manu Sir knocked out Hamilton in the semi-final. I entered the ring against MR Yadav in semi-final with the first aim of avoiding being knocked out. I was extra cautious in the first two rounds & maybe he was leading on points. In the 3rd round I brought all my training to good use ( 200 push-ups & 200 sit-ups every day after dinner for two months, apart from the hardest training in the entire team!). In the 3rd round I knew that he had no more strength left to knock me out. I went for an all- out attack & hammered him. Both Manu Sir & I won the final bouts quite easily. Even today I am known among 70 & 71 Regular Courses as the guy who beat MR Yadav.
Post commission, hardly any officer boxes but I continued to do so with the soldiers for 6 years. In this period I went deeper into Boxing as a trainer & learnt a lot of Boxing from several Boxers, including international stars & Arjuna awardees who were team mates in my Army career. Through Boxing I learnt a lot about sports, fitness as well as life.