Playing nationals for the first time in his home-ground recently, World Championships Bronze medalist Shiva Thapa revisited locked memories of those grueling training sessions in his early career days as he thrashed Haryana’s Ankush to clinch gold in the Senior Men’s National Boxing Championships in Guwahati, Assam.
“It was always my wish to fight in the home ground in front of the local crowd and to end it with a gold medal is more than comforting,” says Shiva in an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com.
Battling through with his bloodied forehead in the quarterfinals, local favourite Shiva survived a head-butt and won the bout with style and integrity. However, to continue fighting forward with severely injured forehead was not an easy stride, and chose the harder path and decided not to give up.
“It was bleeding, still I continued fighting. The next day, I knew I had an important match and had to fight again with the injury. There was a question if I should fight or not.
“But, I finally decided to fight no matter what as I was the lone boxer to reach quarterfinals from my state (Assam) and wanted to bring a medal to the state. It was my home-ground and I decided to give in and not back out,” Shiva says.
The decision proved to be more than comforting as he won the game, adding yet another feather to his cap and made his state proud.
Ranked third in bantamweight category in AIBA Men’s World Championships, Shiva was drawn to sports since his kindergarden days as he played karate and finally found his way into boxing at just 10 years old.
Oblivious of all the responsibilities and nationwide praise he would attain ahead, young Shiva, holding his father Padam Thapa’s hand along with his elder brother, walked to Ulubari Boxing Federation in Guwahati where he first trained and found his ‘foothold’.
Since then he has been chasing his dream. He credits his father for pushing him hard towards achieving his dream.
“Boxing has always been my favourite sport. As a kid, I never thought that I would take up the sport as a career option. My dad was always there, supporting, believing and encouraging me for making it to the Olympics. That was a dream when I started as a boxer. Since then I have been chasing my dream,” he says.
Soon his dream turned into reality when he qualified as the youngest boxer for the London Olympics in 2012 and labeled it as the ‘best moment’ in his life and went on for another Olympic appearance in Rio Olympics 2016.
However, conquering his dream was not a fairy-tale ride as he has had his fair share of struggles in his early career days with his father being the sole-bread winner of the family and balancing expenses for six siblings with Shiva being the youngest. He has four elder sisters and one elder brother who is an Assam state-level medal winning boxer.
“There was a time when my father went through a lot of financial problems. We once owned a furniture and steel showroom which my dad had to sell to cover up my expenses,” Shiva recalls.
“Sports require a lot of expenses separately for diet, equipment, kit and travel expenses. It was difficult for my dad to manage everything but somehow he managed to facilitate with all the requirements,” he explains.
Amid the financial struggle, Shiva also had to make the decision of choosing one of the most dangerous sports as his career option as there is always a high risk of being gravely injured.
“When I first started boxing my mom supported me. However, when I started playing in tournaments, for the first time I got hit in the nose and it started bleeding. My mom was taken aback and said the sport is brutal – ‘I can’t see you getting injured like this’,” says the young boxer.
However, choosing sports as a full-time career option in India is still not popular as choosing ‘medical’ and ‘engineering’ degrees.
“There should be more sports scheme or scholarships. Family needs to be convinced that choosing sports can also prove to be successful,” says the Asian gold medalist.
When asked who his idol is, Shiva was quick to reply ‘Mike Tyson’ and also said ‘Muhammad Ali’, though both belonged to different generations.
Vanquishing multiple medals in his 23-year-long career, does he have any plans to turn Pro?
“I think after my amateur career I would definitely love to turn pro in future. But, as of now I am only concentrating on my current tournaments and have no such plans,” Shiva signs off.
Shiva, in his constant crave for success, looks ahead for his ardent participation in the 2022 Tokyo Olympics and hopes to bring a medal to the country.