Indian boxer Satish Kumar has his eyes set on an Olympic medal in the 91kg+ category. The 30-year-old boxer was the first Indian to book a berth for the Tokyo Olympics. He shares with Sputnik how he once had no idea about the sport; today he dominates India's super-heavyweight scene.
Sputnik: How was the Indian Army instrumental in evolving you as an amateur boxer?
Satish Kumar: My journey of boxing began with me joining the Indian Army. The coaches in the Indian Army spotted the talent in me, trained me, gave me the opportunity and made me a fine boxer. They were impressed with my height (6 feet 2 inches) and build.
The whole and sole credit for me taking up this sport goes to the Indian Army. I had no idea about this sport before I joined the forces. I was put in the 91+ kg category that I still continue to play in.
— JSW Sports (@jswsports) November 14, 2019
Sputnik: After playing matches in the domestic circuit, did you ever feel you would get to play in the international arena?
Satish Kumar: I got my first national medal when I participated in the National Games, which were held in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu in 2011. However, before this, I had already started participating in several boxing championships which were organised by the Indian armed forces. In my category, I was beating all the boxers who came from different units of the forces – be it Indian Navy, Air Force or any other unit. Known as the "Services Platform”, it was a big stage that took me places and has brought me huge honour.
I had no experience playing with international players or fighting with Indian players who had international exposure. In 2011, I had thrashed strong contenders like Paramjit Samota, who was established and was a Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
In 2011, I never knew I would represent India one day in the Olympics.
Sputnik: Were you ever nervous seeing your well-established contemporaries whom you were competing against?
Satish Kumar: The moment I used to descend the ring, it never occurred to me that my opponent was more established than me. I only focused on playing the sport well.
What worked for me was my love for the game, following all the advice of my coaches; I kept training and made the most of the opportunities that I got. This led to constant improvement of my game and I kept moving up the ladder.
It never mattered to me if my coaches were making me practice for hours, were making me run long distances or if I was part of a gruelling schedule.
Sputnik: How does it feel to be the first ever Indian to book an Olympic berth in the 91kg+ super-heavyweight category?
Satish Kumar: This is my first chance to participate in the Olympics and I am the first Indian boxer ever to have qualified in this 91 kg+ weight category from India. I am very happy and looking forward to the tournament.
However, the journey to reach the Olympics has been a little long. When I started competing in the domestic circuit, I had no idea that I might be able to play the sport at an international podium. By the time I started competing I realised, most opponents whom I was fighting with were already established players.
Despite winning a silver medal in the National Championship in 2011, I was not allowed to be part of the national boxing camp. The first time I joined the national boxing camp was in 2012 in the capital of Telangana state – Hyderabad. Soon after, I got an international opportunity to represent India.
Not only did I represent India, I won medals at the Asian Games, Asian Championships and the Commonwealth Games and finally booked a berth in the Olympics.
I made a place for myself by beating boys who were much ahead of me in rankings.
Sputnik: You recently mentioned that the qualifier match for Olympics 2021 was just a trailer, and that the world will see the picture at the Tokyo Olympics?
Satish Kumar: I believe in a lot of hard work and I do all that my coaches tell me. I want blessings from all my fans and fellow citizens so that I give a tough fight and come back home with a medal.
I eat, sleep and drink boxing and I have been following this schedule for the last decade or so, and now time has come to make the Olympic dream a reality. I will give my 1000% to win the medal.
Apart from the credit to the Indian Army, and my dedication to the sport, my family has also sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am today.
Sputnik: Is there any player in your category from whom you feel threatened
Satish Kumar: The reigning World No. 1 from Uzbekistan, Bakhodir Jalolov, is a tough opponent. I had a bout with him in the India Open in 2018. I find him threatening.
Sputnik: Have you ever thought of becoming a professional boxer?
Satish Kumar: To date the thought of turning into a professional boxer has not crossed my mind. My only focus is a medal for my country from the Olympics.