New Delhi, Nov 05: The first time he put on boxing gloves, World Youth Championship gold medallist Thokchom Nanao Singh`s furious father packed him off to a boarding school. Ten years and five international medals later, his parents are happy that he defied their will.
"Actually, a friend of mine, who used to box, took me to the ring for the first time and I liked the sport very much. Then Dingko Singh won the gold medal in 1998 Asian Games and that was when I decided to become a boxer but my parents were furious," the diminutive light fly weight boxer, who was barely eight when he took to the ring, said.
"I was the youngest kid in the family and understandably my parents wanted me to focus on studies. But I refused to go to the school until allowed to box. They in turn sent me to a boarding school but I ran away from there as well," he revealed.
Nanao said his act of defiance finally forced his strict father to call home a local boxing coach, who guided him initially before the Army Sports Institute in Pune groomed him for international competitions.
"When I came back from the boarding school, my parents gave up on me and my father arranged for a local coach who saw potential in me. In 2000 I joined the Army Sports Institute in Pune and have been training there since then," he said.
The 18-year-old, in his final year in the youth category, has an envious international record winning medals at every tournament that he has gone for outside India with the latest being the gold medal at the inaugural World Youth Championship in Mexico.
"It`s a combination of luck and skill. I am not overtly aggressive in the ring and like to keep my guard up. I prefer counter-punching to attacking, besides I try and remain calm even if I am trailing. This sometimes helps me to come out of even losing situations," Nanao said.
Inspired by the legendary Muhammad Ali and homegrown heroes like Dingko and Olympian Akhil Kumar, Nanao says the Beijing bronze medal of Vijender Singh has galvanised Indian boxing like never before, the proof of which lies in the respect that the country`s boxers are now getting in international events.
"Our rivals no longer take us for granted. I remember the Commonwealth Youth Championship last year in England, we were not taken all that seriously there. But in Mexico, the guys from even strong countries like Russia and Cuba were slightly intimidated by us," said the teen, who beat a Cadet World Championship silver medallist from Russia in the finals.