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Rediff.com  » Sports » The Indian boxer who will box alongside Manny Pacquiao

The Indian boxer who will box alongside Manny Pacquiao

July 09, 2018 09:37 IST

'In 2015 after fighting in the same card as Vijender Singh, I was flying and thought my life is made.'
'But I fell flat. I didn't get any fights after that.'
'It was heartbreaking.'
'I don't want to go through that again.'
'Therefore, I will fight and go to office the next day.'

Siddharth Varma

IMAGE: Siddharth Varma in action. Photographs: Kind courtesy Siddharth Varma/Facebook

Siddharth Varma wears many hats.

He works with Central Railway, helps when he can at his family's sweetmeat business, performing roles like cleaner and delivery man.

Boxing is the only constant in the 33 year old's life.

Varma, a welterweight professional boxer, features in the card which has the iconic Manny Pacquiao in the lead bout.

Pacquiao is pitted against Lucas Matthysse in a fight billed as the 'Battle of the Champions' for the WBA Welterweight World title.

Varma faces Malaysian boxer Theena Thayalan in a six-round contest.

"It has been a journey full of sacrifices. Until today, I have not been able to support my family," Varma -- the reigning Super Welterweight Indian Boxing Council National champion with a 4-1 professional record -- tells Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com before the big fight on Sunday, July 15.

 

Tell us about your journey in boxing.

I was not born in an affluent household. My family has no relation with sport.

My father runs a sweet shop in Pune and we were expected to follow suit.

When my younger brother was 10, I used to drop him to his karate classes.

I would watch them train and thought the workouts were killing, I would not be able to survive.

I was 12 and looking at the financial status at home we could not think of choosing a sport where we had to spend some money.

My brother suggested I take up boxing since it would cost just 150 rupees for six months; if the boxer showed promise, then no fee was charged.

I took up boxing and paid that 150 rupees. Since then I have never paid any amount to learn boxing.

I was good at it and hence my club never charged me.

A few years ago a professional company asked me to shell out 30,000 rupees, saying they would take me to Malaysia for training.

I flatly refused, saying in 20 years of my amateur career I never paid for any training and will continue to do so.

Siddharth Varma

And how has the journey been so far?

If I can say it in a sentence, then it would aptly be a journey full of sacrifices.

Until today, I have not been able to support my family.

Whatever I earn is spent in maintaining my diet and equipment.

There have been times that I ask for money at home because what I am left with is not enough.

Mann marke raha hoon (to suppress one's feelings).

A sportsman has to lead a disciplined life. It comes with a lot of sacrifices.

Had I been indisciplined, I would not have reached where I am today.

Do you regret not studying further than Standard 8?

No.

See, as a child, I was told that 'Mehnat ka phal milega (hard work pays). So, I keep going back to that.

I just give my 200 per cent in boxing and feel that good work always get support.

I don't expect much from life, I get easily satisfied.

But when it comes to boxing, I am not satisfied.

After beating three or four Olympians, I thought, I didn't get much support in my youth, but I must make the most of it today.

Were you discouraged by your family when taking up boxing?

I was not born into a family of sportsmen so they didn't know what it takes to be a professional.

All parents spoke about was boxing in the Olympics. But it was not my dream.

I grew up watching Fight Nights in 1996-1997 which featured professional boxing. I was instantly hooked.

My parents cribbed until I landed the Central Railway job. After that they want to see me at the Olympics, which I am not keen on.

During the World Series Boxing you were the crowd favourite. Did the stunts came naturally to you?

What you see in the ring is me.

While my full concentration is on the fight, there are 2-3 seconds I can spare when I am at my corner.

I like when I make people happy.

I tried doing a few things in the ring during my amateur days, but was cautioned.

In pro boxing I can be myself.

How are you preparing for this bout?

This bout came to me when I was at one of my lowest points.

I was training aimlessly when WSB coach Joe Clough got in touch with our Central Railway coach, Girish Pawar.

He wanted me to fight. I wasn't ready. I weighed 78kg at that time, but after initial jitters and with some encouragement from Mr Pawar I was up for the fight.

Today, I weigh 67 kg and I am fit.

My opponent will naturally be quick. That's why I am focussing more on speed and strength training.

What are your expectations from this fight?

No expectations. I plan to go to office and resume my duties the very next day.

I have stopped thinking about these things.

In 2015 after fighting in the same card as Vijender Singh, I was flying and thought my life is made.

But I fell flat. I didn't get any fights after that and grew disillusioned.

It was heartbreaking. I don't want to go through that again.

Therefore, I will just fight and go to office the next day. As simple as that!

Laxmi Negi / Rediff.com