In talk with Vijay Kamble

Q1 How did get into boxing/ who was your inspiration

I started boxing very early, my dad had a dream to become a boxer himself. He loved Mike Tyson and subsequently, he became my favorite boxer too. He aspired to compete professionally and win the WBC championship Belt for India, but due to family issues, he couldn’t pursue that dream. Thus he decided that his son or daughter will be a boxer and complete his dream. 

My dad started training me when I was a child. He would sit on a cycle and ask me to run and drag him along. Training with him was hard but fun. In 2011 I decided to join boxing and I quit that in 2 days. The training was so brutal and tough that I decided I’ll train by myself.  After some convincing by my father, I rejoined the academy and stuck with the training this time.

My dad and Mike Tyson are my inspirations. My dad signified the importance of self-belief and told me that if I can put my mind to a goal I can achieve it. He taught me that I should never complain, play with the cards that I’ve dealt with, and have confidence in my training. Mike Tyson is like a role model to me, his style of boxing captivates me. He was an aggressive boxer, he never backed down, his confidence was through the roof. He would look like a menace in the ring. My boxing style is heavily influenced by his.

Q2 How do you mentally prepare for a boxing match ?

Any boxer is eagerly waiting for his match, it’s an opportunity for him to show his skills and hard work. The best way to describe a boxer right before the match is, imagining a tiger stalking his prey.  Like the tiger, a boxer is calm from the outside, but in his head, he’s formulating strategies, observing his opponents, and constantly evaluating him. You can’t afford distractions before your match. All thoughts are just about punching, slipping, and ducking. I felt nervous only for my first match.

Q3 How was it like winning your first silver medal ? What is the one memory in the ring which you will never forget ?

I have a few distinct memories from my career. I’ll share two. The memory I am most fond of is the first time I knocked an opponent down. I was competing in a state-level competition, my opponent was pretty active throughout the first few rounds while I was reserved. During the later rounds he swung at me with his right, I ducked and countered with my right and luckily it hit the mark sending him to the canvas.

The second one is when I boxed this really tough opponent, it was a hard fight and I got tired and started breathing through my mouth.  During the later rounds, he hit me with a punch that forced my mouth shut. Blood started gushing from my mouth and I spat out a piece of flesh and continued to box. After the round my tongue felt weird, I realized that I just bit my tongue and spit it out nevertheless I continued the match and won it. This is a memory I look back at with disbelief that it happened and I did that.

Q4 What were the main hardships? Have you ever had second thoughts about boxing ?

The main hardships I faced during my journey with the sport were mainly financial. During my time, there were very few scholarships for boxing, the government, and other major sports institutions did not support the sport that much. There wasn’t much infrastructure for competitions and tournaments. The sport demands time and attention, unless you make it to the big leagues there is no support for the sport. Despite these hardships I never thought about quitting boxing, the fighting spirit always kept pushing me through hardships and finding new opportunities. 

Q5 What are the qualities that are essential for boxing ?

Boxing has two battlefronts, one where you fight physically, the other is mental. You need to have a clear mindset concerning boxing. Your strong mindset is your most lethal weapon. One needs to decide if he wants to pick the sport as a hobby or if he wants to be a champion. If you choose the latter you must be ready, even if the sky falls upon you, you need to make sure you’re the best. Once you forge that mindset, that goal, and start practicing sincerely you’d acquire the next set of skills like confidence, work ethic, etc. Boxing is often linked to a game of human chess, where a sound strategy is the component of success.

Q6 Tell us more about your coaching and training experience ?

If it wasn’t for my deep passion for boxing, trust me, I would have quit the process the very first day. Realizing my passion and gathering my willpower to pursue the same was easy. However, once you become a part of the process, it is a tough row to hoe. Initially, during my early childhood, I used to train myself through YouTube videos and tutorials which paved the way for injuries. I realized I required expert guidance to polish my techniques and hence I started training under Zhishan Jagirdar. Coaches push you out of your comfort zone, they test your limits and help you transcend them. My coach demanded a lot out of me. He wanted us to rip open punching bags. He never let me out without getting what he wanted from me. I used to tell myself, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”.

Q7 What do you think about female boxers in India ?

Mary Kom is one of my true inspirations. This was born out of my admiration for her ferocious punches, formidable skills, and our similar journey.  I always dreamt of being a WBC champion and she has bagged it 5 times. Phenomenal!  Usually, women carry the world on their shoulders, and despite that, they achieve and rise to such great heights. There aren’t a lot of prejudices, stereotypes, and sexism in boxing gyms against women. Boxing knows no boundaries or gender-  Hard work will be rewarded. 

Q8 What are the most important lessons boxing has taught you ? What are your future plans regarding boxing ?

Boxing makes one mentally strong and it helps you get across the ocean of life. It teaches a man to maintain the stability of his emotions and not get overwhelmed. People believe that boxing is intensely physical. It is, but it also teaches us that the mind is stronger than the body. Today’s generation is very indecisive. Boxing helps you make quick calculated decisions within a limited time. Boxing teaches you how to fight in the ring and life and no matter what- a boxer always loves to fight. I love boxing and I’m going to continue to be part of the sport, either inside the ring- as a player or outside the ring- as a coach.

Q9 How has boxing changed throughout the years, what are your  takes on this era of boxing ? Is it hard to make it as a professional boxer in India ?

In my time, boxing wasn’t a very popular sport among the masses. People always associated boxing with severe wounds and would beat gums about how boxing will cause damage to the face, nose, brain, teeth, and career. There weren’t a lot of boxing competitions and tournaments back then. A boxer’s career is short-lived. A typical boxer can’t compete over the age of 35.  Boxing is a sport that has been declining in popularity. But nowadays there’s a mania of boxing born out of the various trends on Instagram, like the padding work for instance. The trend instilled by movies and new age boxers has diverted people’s attention towards boxing and I’m sure that in a few years we’ll be producing the best of the best talents in the sport.

Q10 Do you have any interest in other combat sports, have you ever trained for any of them ?

I don’t have a flair for any other combat sports. I’ve tried my hand at kickboxing, wrestling, muay Thai but they never really felt the same as standing in the ring with heavily padded gloves on and punching the opponent. Agreed, they’re fun to play now and then but my love and respect towards boxing are unmatchable.

Q11 Do you have any tips or advice for those who are training and aspiring to become boxers or boxing as a hobby ? What are things a boxer should do and things he should refrain from doing?

Boxing is a vicious sport. I know people who are in a coma, people who have brain damage or have become dysfunctional. It’s a cruel reality and you have to understand it. The movies portray the glittery parts of it. They don’t portray the broken noses, fractured wrists, hands, torn ligaments, etc. 

If one is serious about competing in the sport he/she should enroll in a boxing academy or gym as early as they can. My only advice to them would be to never skip practice sessions and to work hard. Like I already mentioned, hard work will surely be rewarded.

-Vedant Vasav 

SY. B.Sc( Economics)

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