Glory, and with it, the fame, came very early in his life for Vikas Krishan. Aged just 18, he had the world at his feet. He was adjudged the best youth boxer in the world. He followed that effort with a bronze medal at the Youth Olympics and a gold at the Asian Games.
In 2011, he became only the second Indian male boxer to win a medal at the World Championships, truly living up to his billing as India’s best since Vijender Singh burst onto the scene.
The following years were a mixed bag for Krishan, another product of the famous Bhiwani Boxing Club.
Last year, he became the first Indian male boxer to win medals in the Asian and Commonwealth Games, a feat that was matched by Amit Panghal.
His campaign in Jakarta came to an abrupt end after suffering a nasty eye injury and since then, he slowly faded away from the amateur circuit. The 27-year-old’s career almost mirrored Vijender, who, like Krishan, had his roots in BBC before taking the plunge in the world of professional boxing.
Starting from humble beginnings in Haryana, did Krishan have a tough time after being thrust into the limelight as a teenager?
“[The fame] It does if affect you,” Krishan told Scroll.in. There is a lot more pressure that comes in when you win. All eyes are on you and they expect you to win every single bout. These expectations were there when I turned professional too. I took my own time but am able to cope with that now.”
In August, Krishan made a stunning u-turn. He had made an impressive start after shifting base to United States, but the urge to participate in the Tokyo Olympics saw him put his professional career on hold after just two unblemished bouts. After spending a few months in the national camp, Krishan will be a part of the Indian squad for the South Asian Games in Kathmandu.
And he has a point to prove now.
“I am looking forward to this event after spending many months with Santiago [Nieva] and the other coaches,” Krishan said. “I don’t know what the future holds now but am slowly getting back to my best. I don’t think it will be a difficult assignment for me.”
Adjusting to a new environment has happened at a rapid pace for Krishan in the recent past. Previously a 75kg boxer, he will be competing in the 69kg category. Athletes always run the risk of losing their effectiveness while scaling down the ladder.
“I was fighting in the 69kg category in the professional circuit so it wasn’t that difficult for me to make that adjustment. I am sure at all these months of hard work will pay off,” he said.
One year can be a lot of time in the world of boxing. But, Krishan was prepared to play the waiting game. He was not a part of the squad that travelled to the World Championships in Russia and worked on his fitness at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Vijaynagar.
Moving back to the amateur space, there is a plenty of unlearning that a boxer has to put himself through, mentally and technically.
“There is a big difference between amateur and professional boxing,” Krishan said. “You’re almost fighting with bare hands in professional. There were a lot of changes I made with my technique back then. Now that I am back in amateur, I am going through that grind again.”
However, his earlier transition came with a mixed feedback. There were a few who had pointed out that Krishan was stepping away from the amateur space a little too early in his career, compared to, say, a Vijender. The latter was already an icon in men’s boxing in India, and had an Olympic medal too boot – something that still eludes Krishan’s impressive trophy cabinet.
Krishan, though, argues that life was far from simple for him. “People think that pro boxing is easy but that is so not the case. Previously, people overseas had an impression that Indians are not good enough to cut it at the big stage. I wanted to show that we are born fighters. I was determined that way. I wasn’t living the high life there [in the United States] and had a point to prove. I didn’t have a lot of money and had to figure things on my own,” he said.
With the clock ticking towards the 2020 Olympics, a boxer of Krishan’s pedigree does bolster India’s chances. The starting point towards that will be the SAG Games, where the focus is on him ahead of the Tokyo 2020 qualifiers next year. Known to put his best when he sets a target, one cannot rule him out from participating in the Summer Games for a third time. And, perhaps this time, clinch that elusive medal.