Manish Kaushik has announced his arrival on the senior scene in grand fashion.
Laxmi Negi reports.
IMAGE: Manish Kaushik, left, celebrates after upstaging the Philippines' Charlie Suarez at the India Open boxing tournament. Photograph: Kind courtesy Manish Kaushik/Facebook
In the 2017 Nationals, Manish Kaushik was named the 'most promising boxer'.
Now, the 23 year old has delivered. And how!
In the India Open, the southpaw caused a huge upset by beating two Olympians: Rio Olympian Charlie Suarez in the quarter-finals and London and Rio Olympian Shiva Thapa in the semis.
Manish did not have to step inside the ring to collect his gold as he was given a walkover by his Mongolian opponent Battumur Misheelt who pulled out owing to a cut sustained on his forehead during his semi-final bout.
His India Open success confirmed that this Haryanvi lad's victory over Thapa in the 2017 Nationals was no fluke.
Certainly, Kaushik has announced his arrival on the senior national scene in grand fashion.
IMAGE: Manish Kaushik in blue. Photograph: Kind courtesy Manish Kaushik/Facebook
Until the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Manish was busy helping his parents in the fields, growing wheat and cotton. Vijender Singh's bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics changed the lives of many youngsters. Manish was one of them. From that day learned to dream, and dream big.
The image of Bhiwani boys Vijender, Jitender Singh and Dinesh Kumar on the television screen inspired Manish to take up boxing. He was 13 when he started out in 2008. It is considered a late entry to the sport, but in Manish's case, it seems to have worked out just fine.
Manish started out at the Sports Authority of India, Bhiwani, where he spent six years improving his skills.
Three years after he started boxing, he reached the quarter-finals of the 2011 Junior World Championships and won a silver medal at the 2011 Haider Aliyev Cup in Turkey.
When Manish started boxing, the sport was at its peak in India, but after the London Olympics in 2012 it all went downhill.
The federation was derecognised by the International Boxing Association and Indian boxers were left by the ringside.
All Manish did in these uncertain times was train. "I lived in hope," he says. "I knew there was light at the end of the tunnel."
There were times his parents questioned his faith in the sport, but Manish hung in there.
The years that he lost out on could have been his prime; he missed out on exposure tours and youth competitions, but Manish says, "I could have broken into the boxing scene much earlier and it would have made me a better fighter, but I don't dwell in the past."
"I chose boxing over farming because it is a short cut to a better life. I have seen this around me in my village (Devsar Dham). I had be patient and just hope."
In the 2015 Senior Nationals, he won a silver medal and was picked for the senior national camp in Patiala. He competed at his first senior international tournament at the President's Cup in Indonesia in 2015 where he won a bronze.
The same year he won gold at the Doha International Cup.
A job in the Indian Army made things easier for him.
IMAGE: Manish lands a jab on Shiva Thapa at the India Open. Photograph: PTI
In 2016, London and Rio Olympian Shiva Thapa moved from the 56 kg to the 60 kg weight category with an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Thapa established himself in the new weight comfortably by beating Manish at the Guwahati Senior Nationals in 2016 and later won the Asian boxing championship in 2017.
When the two boxers met at the 2017 Vishakapatnam Senior Nationals, Manish, who relies on counter punches, got the better of the Olympian.
At the India Open he moved swiftly to win gold by beating the Philippines' experienced Charlie Suarez in the quarters and Thapa in the semis.
Manish charged Thapa with quick left-right combinations on his way to a unanimous verdict.
'Now, no one will say it was mere fluke when I beat him in Vishakapatnam,' he declared after the victory over Thapa.
"I have my sights set on the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games," says Manish. "But first, I need to perform well at the camp and in the selection trials. I am taking one thing at a time."
He feels he is best suited for the lightweight category, but needs to work on his game. His coaches feels he needs to work on his strength.
Manish won't rest till all is done, because he has a dream -- to win medals for his country.