'We have got quite a strong team, we have got two world championship medalists in Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik. You know that those guys are tough and they can beat any guy on the given day.'
Indian boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav (69kg) is setting his eyes on a gold medal in the third Olympics of his life in Tokyo, slated to be held in a few months’ time.
This feat will make him only the second Indian men boxer to do so after the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Vijender Singh.
The experienced Indian pugilist who has been training for the past few months in the US with his coach Ronald Simms is now back in the country and caught up with SportsTiger's show Building Bridge for a candid conversation to discuss his journey, his goals for the upcoming quadrennial sporting extravaganza and the importance of giving boxing its due credit.
With the Olympics in close sight, the 28-year-old believes that it will be third time lucky for him and wants to clinch the gold for the country after a successful Olympic qualification campaign.
"My aim is to win the gold medal for the country this time. I have represented (India) two times but now it is the time to grab that gold. I am going to show the world how boxing is an art and how I am going to make people miss punches and then hit them back," he said.
Yadav was also asked about his views on the Indian contingent on the show and he said, "We have got quite a strong team, we have got two world championship medalists in Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik. You know that those guys are tough and they can beat any guy on the given day. Apart from that we have Satish Kumar who is much more experienced and we have Ashish Chaudhary and we have good guys. Our team is quite strong. It's a combination of both youth and experience. We are going to do well at the Olympics."
A gold medalist at the 2010 Asian Games and at the 2018 Commonwealth games, the pugilist has also had a taste of professional boxing introduced to him by his close friend Neeraj Goyat. He gave his perspective about the pros and cons of the same and said, "One can earn much more money and respect in the sport of boxing as compared to other sports. You can make a lot of money, you can represent your country at the pro-level and you can make people realize that your country is something in pro-boxing and you are always backed by your country at the top-most level."
Talking about the disadvantages, he said, "The disadvantages of boxing is that you get punched in the face every day. It builds up. After you get to 35-40 years of age you start forgetting things. Then your voice becomes low. Look at our elder boxers like Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Joel Frazier those people forgot everything. You tell them your name and the thing is gone. Getting punched in the face isn't a joke."
He also gave his own balancing act between professional and amateur boxing and believes that competing at the pro-level has made him tough.
"It was quite a tough job for me to manage between professional and amateur boxing at first. In amateur, we have three rounds, while in professional we start from six rounds. But now I am getting back on track. I am adjusted to both. I went to the Olympic qualifiers, I made them with ease. You know being a professional makes you tough and that is the best thing," he said.
With a country that loves cricket more than anything else, the three-time Olympian feels that boxing is yet to get its due and is confident that professional boxing can do a world of good for popularizing boxing in India.
"I can feel that professional boxing can take boxing to another level because in US everyone knows about boxing. In the US there are channels that show boxing while in India there are hardly any channels. Even in the sports columns of the paper, it is all about cricket. We have to change people's mentality that cricket is only a game. I am not criticizing any game but it is only played between how many countries and how much risk it is? So, you have to compare. But people want some easy work, they don't want tough work," Yadav said.
While the Arjuna awardee was very vocal about his views of boxing not getting mainstream importance, he applauded the government's efforts towards the sport.
"At the grassroots, the government is making some fine decisions. They've opened sports centres which are helping the sportsmen like us and other sportsmen who are good at an elite level. They're helping them open their academies and helping them in terms of financial land and everything equipment aspect. India is improving but as you know Rome wasn't built in a day, so it will take time," he said.
Further, with the lockdown in place for a majority of this year and affecting many athletes mentally, Yadav feels that the importance of a sports psychologist/boxing psychologist is ever-growing to help players recover and will play a pivotal role in furthering careers.
Lastly, he signed off with one important advice for the upcoming generations saying, "Don't go for any medicines and any unwanted supplements. I want to tell all the youth boxers and all youth sportspersons of the country that there is no such pill that can make you go up the ladder by taking it every day. Only handwork is the key."