Before stepping into the Youth World Boxing Championships in November, Vanshaj found himself closely studying the bouts of the opponents he was likely to face, with a little bit of self doubt. By the end of the tournament, though, he had not only become champion of the 63.5kg category but also silenced that voice in his head.

One of the most promising junior boxers in the Indian circuit, Vanshraj already boasted of back-to-back gold medals at the Khelo India Games, a bronze and silver at the ASBC Junior Asian Championship 2019 and the 69th Bornemisza International Tournament in Hungary respectively. And with a win over Demur Kajaia from Georgia in the men’s 63.5kg summit clash, he was the Youth World Champion.

“I am proud of myself for winning a gold for my country. I feel happy also because all the hard work my parents put in has reaped success,” said the Sonipat-based boxer in a conversation with, facilitated by Inspire Institute of Sport.

Talking about his biggest takeaway from the tournament, he said, “I realised in this tournament that I must not spend so much time pre-planning things. I watched how my opponent’s bout went before I faced them but I noticed that I took too much pressure about how good they were. However, the situation is very different when I am facing them in the ring. It did not feel like they are much superior to me.”

He added: “Of course, we must spend some time preparing for them but we must not place our entire focus on that. I felt like that largely in my first bout but it all became smooth after that.

“I think in my career so far, it was the toughest tournament. I was facing boxers from all over the world. As the bouts progressed, so did my confidence. After winning the gold, it almost felt unbelievable that I beat him. But I had set my mind before the tournament itself that I wouldn’t settle for anything less than gold.”

Vanshaj was 10 years old when he donned the boxing gloves for the first time. The decision to get into sports was largely his father’s but the fact that he developed an instant interest in it made charting the rest of his journey much easier.

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“I personally chose boxing because it is an individual sport and a combat sport,” he said,

A lot of times, how you flow in the ring and your style is not dictated simply by your technical skills but also your personality. Much like many other athletes who choose combat sports, Vanshaj too had a streak of combativeness in his nature but since taking up boxing, he ensures that the nature is confined to the ring.

“Before boxing, I do think I had a nature that was combative but since I started boxing, I feel like my nature for everything outside the ring has calmed down a lot,” he said.

The biggest victory in his career so far was followed by a reminder of staying humble and that it is only the first step. Aware of that reality and driven by that consistent reminder, Vanshaj is now on track to prepare for the U22 Asian Championships in Jordan coming up in March.

“When I called my parents after winning, they were happy but most excited about listening to the national anthem play with me at the podium. But they also said that this is not the end so don’t be too happy about it, there is a long way to go,” he recalled.

His long-term goal is pretty clear too. Vanshaj wants to represent India in professional boxing. Impressed by the freestyle movement of the upper body and eye sight, Vanshaj takes Mexican boxer Canelo Álvarez as his hero.

In amateur boxing, he also seeks inspiration from Cuba’s Andy Cruz, reigning Olympic champion in the lightweight category, and his flow in the game – from the footwork to the body movement.

“I often tell my parents about wanting to pursue professional boxing but they are hesitant about me doing so without some success at the amateur level,” he said.

Understandably so, as both parties are aware of the trash-talking and associated theatrics that going pro demands. However, it is exactly what interests Vanshaj.

As he put it, “I want to show the world that India too has the boxers to compete for all twelve rounds.”