Gandhinagar: Sleepless nights and sympathies aren’t the requisites of a champion boxer. A heartbreaking loss in the pre-quarterfinals of the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham left reigning Asian champion Sanjeet shed six kilograms before he decided to move on.
On Saturday, Sanjeet returned to the ring at the 36th National Games with clear intent. Representing the Services, the well-built pugilist, who underwent two surgeries on his left tendon, sat for an exclusive interview with EastMojo, where he spoke his heart out on the struggles post the CWG heartbreak.
“It’s better I do not recall the CWG bout, the more I think about it, the more it disturbs me. For good three-four days, I couldn’t sleep well as the unexpected result was flashing through my eyes,” Sanjeet said as he joined a brief sparring session after the bout.
Having comfortably taken a lead after the first two rounds, Sanjeet was left stunned in the ring following a 2-3 split decision verdict in favour of Ato Faoagali of Samoa Islands in the men’s 92 kg Round of 16 at the 2022 CWG. “The next three-four days were terrible, I couldn’t focus on anything else except the bout. I lost almost six kilograms after whatever transpired in Birmingham.”
Sanjeet returned home for a break but soon went back to full training at the Army Institute of Sports (ASI) in Pune. Thereafter he made his way to IIS, Bellary to prepare for the National Games.
“I did not want to be sympathised with. At home, everyone would keep sympathising with me for the Commonwealth Games’ loss. So I moved to the ASI to restart my training and all the coaches would treat me as if nothing had gone wrong. That gave me the motivation to start over again,” he recalled.
“After all every athlete has a low patch in his career, and I would count the CWG experience as one,” he said.
Not the one to give up easily, Sanjeet is now focused on earning the gold at the National Games, and restarting his preparations for the Asian Games next year after the national championships in Bhopal in December. He also has one eye on the world qualifiers, to streamline his preparations for his ultimate goal of gold at the Paris Olympics in 2024.
Every loss teaches a lesson, and for Sanjeet it was his final round game that needed improvement. “I have worked on my third round game, earlier I used to slow down a bit but have improved on it. During training, I have put a lot of effort into my endurance, something that will help me sustain the moment going into the final round of my bouts,” he said.
On a day when most bouts either ended in knockouts or RSC, it was Sanjeet, who lived up to his billing against Uttarakhand’s 20-year-old Harish Singh in what eventually turned out a lop-sided contest in favour of the Services pugilist advancing to the quarterfinals with an RSC win.
The difference in class was pretty evident between the two boxers in the men’s 92kg heavyweight category as Sanjeet used his jabs and combination punches to good effect to outclass the Uttarakhand boxer.
Pushed to the corners, the Uttarakhand boxer gave it all in the first two rounds, mostly at the receiving end of Sanjeet’s wide range of shots, before eventually getting the referees to stop the contest in the final round and ensuring Sanjeet’s face-off with Harsh Kaushik of Delhi. Kaushik recorded a 5-0 unanimous decision verdict over Karnataka’s Ajay Kumar.
“It was a good warm-up before the quarterfinals. This is my first tournament after the Commonwealth Games disappointment, and it feels good to start on a winning note,” he said after the bout.
Former junior world champion Mandeep Kaur of Punjab also cruised to the quarterfinals on Saturday. From the NorthEast, Manipur pugilist Alena Thounaojam was a class apart from her Kerala opponent in the 66kg weight class. Alena got off to an aggressive start before forcing the referees to stop the contest and award the bout in her favour. In the men’s 75kg middleweight category bout, Mizoram’s Malsawmitluanga also made it to the the last eight stage after recording a stunning 5-0 win over home boxer Sahil Aslam Bhai Nilgar.
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