Sparsh shines on Asian championship debut

Guwahati: India’s Sparsh Kumar opened his campaign at the Asian boxing championship with a facile 5-0 win over Kyrgyzstan’s Diushebaev Nurzhigit in the flyweight 51kg men’s round of 32 bout in Amman, Jordan on Tuesday.

A bronze medallist at the recently-held 36th National Games in Gujarat, the Asian boxing championship is Sparsh’s first major international event after the Covid-19 lockdown. He rose to prominence after bagging the 52kg gold medal defeating Pakistan’s Syed Muhammed Asif at the South Asian Games in Kathmandu in December 2019.

Sparsh’s tryst with the sport began in 2009 after his father Manoj Kumar, a bus driver in Delhi, sent the then 9-year-old to Nayagaon near Chandigarh to live with his sister in the hope of getting better education.

But as fate would have it, Sparsh instead got hooked to boxing after watching kids of his age sparring under the watchful eyes of Joginder Kumar, who trains budding pugilists at the Bougainvillea Garden in Chandigarh’s Sector 3 area.

At the National Games, when EastMojo caught up with Sparsh (after selection for the Asian championship), he grew emotional recollecting his association with Kumar, whom he credits for all the success.

“I owe everything to Joginder sir! I still remember that first day in the Bougainvillea Garden, it feels like yesterday. I wanted to approach him after watching several kids of my age training there, but there was a bit of hesitation as I neither have the money to buy gloves nor could I ask my father,” Sparsh said while recollecting his first day as a boxer.

“But I thought, aise nehi chalega baat toh karna padega sir se…(it won’t work until I speak to sir). I approached sir, and he readily agreed. He was kind enough to support me with gloves when I said my family couldn’t afford those,” he added.

“Today whatever I have achieved, all the credit goes to sir. Without his guidance and support, I wouldn’t have come this far. He kept pushing me, always used to say he wanted to see me in India colors,” said Sparsh.

Sparsh, who originally hails from Uttar Pradesh, trained under Joginder for five years before being selected to train at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Sangrur centre. Joginder, who is employed with the intelligence wing of Punjab Police, would recall his first interaction with Sparsh, in an interaction with EastMojo.

“Sparsh was sent to Chandigarh to study, and look where he landed up…sometimes life gives you unexpected surprises in the form of opportunities. It depends on how you utilize those. I’m happy Sparsh grabbed those with both hands,” says Joginder as he switches on to the philosophical mode.

“I was training some kids of his age, when he approached me that day. After the initial few days, I found him a very hardworking boxer, and a quick learner. He would never miss a training session,” he went on.

“As the years passed by, I realised that the kid needed a proper academy which could get him the required diet as his family couldn’t support the needs to sustain his boxing career. That is when I decided to take him to the SAI Mastuana Sahib centre in Sangrur for trials, and he never looked back,” Joginder said.

Sparsh will now take on Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist and reigning World champion Saken Bibossinov in the round of 16 bout on Wednesday.

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