Vikas Krishan Yadav’s much-awaited comeback to amateur boxing had an anti-climatic finish even though he did make history in the Olympic qualifiers in Amman, Jordan, last month. The Bhiwani-based boxer became only the second Indian male pugilist after the celebrated Vijender Singh to qualify for three Olympic events. However, a deep cut on the eye during his semi-final bout, which he won, put him out of action for the final.
Something similar had happened in the 2018 Asian Games, where he bagged a record third medal at the event after reaching the semi-finals but had to withdraw as the injured eye was swollen and he could barely open it.
In Amman, though, the eye injury wasn’t that severe but the Indian camp decided to not take a risk by fielding the 28-year-old. Since the lockdown was announced due to the coronavirus pandemic, Krishan has gone on to regain full fitness.
Being one of the few Indian boxers to juggle amateur and professional careers, Krishan has taken a break from the latter to focus on Olympic qualification.
He had turned professional in January 2019 and took to pro boxing like a duck to water, brushing aside two opponents. His second win, against American Noah Kidd, came in the intimidating cauldron that is New York’s Madison Square Garden.
But not willing to give up on his Olympic dream, Yadav return to amateur boxing earlier this year. He made a belated entry into the Indian camp for the qualifiers and had to work his way up to get up to speed. But the welterweight boxer hardly broke sweat in Amman.
“My strategy when I went into the qualifiers was simple,” Krishan told Scroll.in. “I wanted to win in every possible way. I have been on the road for six-seven months and that is why I needed a bit of a break after that.”
The 2018 Commonwealth Games Gold medallist wasn’t planning to stick to amateur boxing for long but with the Tokyo Olympics postponed, he wants to focus on his dream of winning his first medal at the quadrennial event next year.
“I moved from professional to amateur only to win the Olympics,” Yadav said.
“My plans have changed slightly now. I wanted to be around for just three months. Now, it is one year and three months. But, now that I have time on my hands, I can execute all those plans I had more effectively.
“As the Olympics is now postponed, I have spoken to my coaches [High Performance Director Santiago Nieva and head coach CA Kuttappa] about the same and they want me to have a few more fights building up to the event. They want me to be a strong contender ahead of the Olympics.”
Having just turned 28, Yadav pointed out that it’s much harder for someone having tuned his regime to professional boxing to make a return as an amateur.
“When I stepped down to amateur, it was really hard for me. I had to do a lot of extra work,” Krishan said. “The pace of professional boxing is totally different. Amateur boxing happens at a breakneck pace and I had to work really hard to get into tune with that.”
Going by what we saw in Amman, Yadav was at ease. His trademark flurry from close range, agile footwork and brute strength were in full flow and he looked good to shine in Tokyo.
But like many athletes all around the world, the Arjuna awardee lamented the break in proceedings at the moment. The access to state-of-the-art equipment is a major concern for him.
“I never thought I would have to train at home someday. I can manage my own weight training but I have just a skipping rope to work with at the moment. I don’t have a lot of equipment,” he added.
While the coaches have been interacting with the Indian boxers on regular basis, Yadav misses the feedback he would get from close quarters.
“To be frank, it is very difficult [without the coaches around],” he said. “They can’t see you; can’t point out the mistakes you are making. Everything surrounding our training regiment is that much more difficult right now,” he added.
It is Yadav’s spirit and drive that pushed him to the top echelons of world boxing and he sounded out a warning to his opponents, as the sporting world grapples with uncertain times.
“My target is to win the Olympic gold. With the current situation, I don’t know when my next competition will be but one thing is for sure: Whoever comes in my way, I am just going to crush them,” he added.