Gaurav Bidhuri: The boxer who could be India’s pride

“I was determined to prove my worth. I won a gold medal in a competition in the Czech Republic, and it set the tone. I needed to break the barrier. Now things will change for the better. People will talk about me,” says Gaurav Bidhuri following his bronze medal-winning performance in the World Championship

India’s Gaurav Bidhuri (red) squares up against Duke Ragan of the United States in the men’s bantamweight semifinals of the AIBA World Championship.   -  Getty Images

Even though the expectations were pinned on established boxers such as Shiva Thapa and Vikas Krishan Yadav in the World Boxing Championship in Hamburg, youngsters, including Amit Panghal, Gaurav Bidhuri and Kavinder Bisht, made an impact with their good showing.

READ: World Boxing C’ships: Gaurav Bhiduri ends with bronze

Bidhuri, 24, a lesser-known name outside the boxing circle, impressed by securing a bantamweight bronze. He, thus, became the fourth Indian male boxer to win a medal in the World Championship. The soft-spoken boxer from Delhi, known for his attacking and fearless style, is an excellent example of a sportsman grabbing the opportunity to be counted among the world class performers who can be groomed for 2020 Olympics. Bidhuri spoke to Sportstar about his journey so far and the road ahead.

Question: Unlike the previous World Championship medal winners from India, such as Vijender Singh, Vikas Krishan Yadav and Shiva Thapa, you never won anything big before you landed a medal in Hamburg. Tell us why you could not make an impact earlier?

Answer: Since my international debut in 2011, in the President’s Cup — where I got a bronze medal — I have given some good performances and beaten some higher-ranked boxers. However, in the last three years or so I lost in quarterfinals of some major events, such as the 2014 Asian Games in Korea and the 2016 Olympic qualifier in Venezuela. Even in the Asian Championship in May, I lost in the quarterfinals and then lost the box-off and could not qualify for the World Championship. It was very disappointing.

Thankfully, I got a wild card slot. I was determined to prove my worth. I won a gold medal in a competition in the Czech Republic, and it set the tone. I needed to break the barrier. Now things will change for the better. People will talk about me.

Without any major success how did you keep yourself motivated over such a long period of time?

People used to criticise me for not getting a big medal. They used to ask, why this boy is getting the exposure despite not showing any result at top level competitions. I have faced lots of ups and downs in my career. Sometimes bad luck and injuries prevented me from performing to my potential. There was a phase when I got a little demoralised. But my father (Dharmender Bidhuri, a National level boxer in the late 1980s) had faith in me and kept pushing me.

You had a lot of injury issues throughout your career. How did you deal with them?

Injuries are my friends now. I have had many of them. Last year, I injured my right knuckle. This year I have been having severe back pain since February. I have gone through really tough times in the last seven-eight months. Still, I endured that and participated in the Asian Championship and the World Championship. It was very painful during the Asian Championship, but our coaches, doctor and physio worked hard to help me fight the bouts. They have been very supportive. If I have an injury, then they are not pushing me to do the exercises that could hurt me.

Being a positive person myself also helped. I take everything in my stride. Whenever I lose a bout, I look to learn a few things from it and try to become a better boxer.

How essential has been your father’s support?

My father is the person who wanted me to be a boxer like him, and he was my first coach. He still trains me outside the National camp. He is always devoted to boxing. I discuss my problems with my coaches and some good friends like Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan. However, my father is the ultimate go-to man for me as far as boxing is concerned.

How difficult was it for you as a boxer from Delhi, which unlike Haryana or Manipur does not have a boxing culture?

It was difficult as not too many people in Delhi are interested in boxing. But my father made it easy for me. He used to train with me at home, take me to different clubs and competitions for fights. I am very happy to have risen to his expectation and made him proud. When I spoke to him after winning the quarterfinal bout, he was so delighted that he could not express his happiness. My aim is to achieve what he has dreamt for me, and win an Olympic medal.

You also competed in the semi-professional league, the World Series of Boxing (WSB). Did that help you become a better boxer?

Yes, definitely. Besides, that is one of the things that kept me motivated. I performed well there and won some bouts against tough opponents. I was the first Indian boxer to represent two franchises from other countries (USA and Italy). No other boxer has done that. It was a huge confidence booster for me.

How do you analyse your performance in your first World Championship, and what did you learn from it?

This is my best showing. I beat some higher-ranked, world-class boxers. I fought well and improved as a boxer. It was a confidence booster. It changed my game and life. I am sure you will see a better Gaurav Bidhuri in future.

Meanwhile, I took note of my mistakes and learnt some new techniques.

How are you planning to approach big events like the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games next year, and the Tokyo Olympics in 2020?

First, I need to take one or two months rest to recover from my back pain. I will then switch my focus to the big events next year. Winning medals there will make me more confident and help my preparations for the Olympics.

Since I have moved to 56 kg, I don’t have to reduce my weight drastically. That’s my actual weight and it may make life a little easier. However, I have to focus on my fitness and add power to my punches. With the help of our foreign coach Santiago Nieva, who has introduced a lot of new fitness and gym exercises, I think I will be able to achieve my goal.