The immediate names that come to mind in discussions about hotbeds for Indian boxing, are Haryana, Manipur and Uttar Pradesh. And now there is another contender on the block – Telangana’s Nizamabad.
World Champion Nikhat Zareen put Nizamabad well and truly on the world map of boxing with her gold medal at Istanbul World Championships earlier this year. And now, India’s 57kg (men’s) entry for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, Mohammad Hussamuddin – who also hails from Nizamabad – is driven to follow suit.
His immediate target? Upgrade the colour of the medal from 2018.
A bronze medallist in the Gold Coast edition four years back, Hussamuddin will be back at it in Birmingham. The pugilist has grown in experience and knowledge of his craft in the last four years.
Hussamuddin defeated Kavinder Singh Bisht, the silver medallist at the 2019 Asian Championships, in the 57kg division by a score of 4-1 during the selection trials to seal his berth for his second appearance at the Commonwealth Games.
Ahead of the all-important event set to begin on July 28, the Indian boxing contingent has travelled Ireland in order to bolster their preparations for the same. However, Hussamuddin is confident of his own process before the caravan moves to Birmingham.
“My preparation this time is even better,” said Hussamuddin, in a conversation with Scroll.in before leaving for Ireland.
“What has changed this time around is that I think I am going in with far more knowledge, having played many competitions, against different oppositions. I feel better equipped in terms of what strategy to use against what boxers and what to do in the moment. Earlier, I used to rely on just my speed but now, the power has also improved.”
Hussamuddin’s journey to becoming a boxer is rather interesting. The sport was not his preferred one, he was first training to be a gymnast. But after his coach’s move to another state, and a decision suggested by his father, Samsamuddin – a boxer himself, he stepped into the boxing ring.
Although having brothers Ahteshamuddin and Aitesamuddin as boxers and a coach for a father all involved in boxing can add some extra pressure, and an added bit of scrutiny, it has only been a blessing for Hussamuddin. According to him, the transition from gymnastics to boxing was rather seamless.
“My entire family is into boxing, it’s literally what my background is. My father is a coach, my elder brothers are into boxing and I started when I was very young,” he said.
“I don’t think the presence of boxers in the family adds pressure. In fact, it brings me a lot of support whether it is from my father or brother because among us six brothers, five of us have been into boxing, so they get it.”
Unlike his transition from one sport to the other, the progression in Hussamuddin’s career wasn’t exactly seamless.
In 2012, Amateur boxing’s international body had suspended the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation after reports of “manipulation” of the IABF elections. Indian boxers found it challenging to participate in various competitions as a result of the IABF’s suspension by the Indian Sports Ministry, which also cut off the sport’s government support.
“There was no clarity about the future of continuing boxing for me. Further, I used to play Bantamweight (57kg) but when I came into senior, I played 52kg for a year and found little success. 2014 went by like that as well,” he recalled.
Husamuddin thinks of that as the lowest ebb of his career but being surrounded by family members who understood his struggle and more importantly, encouraged his dreams helped him to keep going.
“They said, ‘You have to keep faith, there will be up and downs. And boxing is a game like that, it is bound to show you moments like this. It is not possible things will always be like this. You will have to lose and you will also have to win. But through it all, never lose faith.’
“I also understood that If I focus on one thing and work hard for it, it’ll never go to waste. If not today, it will help tomorrow. And if not here, then somewhere else. For instance, things don’t work out in boxing, then it’ll work out for me elsewhere,” he said.
Things started to look brighter for him after he made it into the national camp in 2014 and after taking part at the World Championships. His first senior international medal came at the World Military Games in 2015 and he followed it by taking home his first senior national championship in 2016, then a second-place finish in the 2017 Strandja Memorial and third-place finish in 2018.
But it was in Gold Coast in 2018 that he first experienced the high one feels after representing his country and returning with a medal. The Commonwealth Games has a special place in his career.
“I think the top moment for me is winning the medal in CWG 2018. It was my first major competition. I had participated in several competitions at the youth level but CWG was the first big one for me. It was exciting and made me really happy because in my first major tournament, I won a medal. It motivated me further,” said Hussamuddin.
Determined to change the colour from bronze to gold this time, Hussamuddin is also banking upon the philosophy he has been surrounded with since childhood to be his guiding light to the podium and put Nizamabad in the headlines again.
“I don’t go into the ring thinking about winning or losing. For me, the priority is the hard work that I put in in the ring and give my best at that. I will avoid taking the pressure of winning or losing, I just want to give my best.”