The 250 kilometer round trip from Bhiwani to Delhi and back on a Haryana state highway bus in the sweltering North Indian summer isn’t a pleasant one. Yet for Parvinder Singh and Sandeep Singh, it’s a journey they have dutifully made over the past three days.
Each day, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, the two brothers would travel to New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi stadium to cheer and support their niece Jaismine Lamboria who was competing in the women’s boxing selection trials for the Commonwealth Games.
If there were any nerves from Parvinder and Sandeep early on in the the first couple of days, there was only relief and satisfaction on the final day as the 21-year-old Jaismine beat 2022 World bronze medallist Parveen Hooda to win the right to represent India in the 60kg category in Birmingham.
As they patted her on the back, “Now it’s your turn,” they’d say to her.
It is indeed.
As a child growing up in Bhiwani, Jaismine Lamboria was always fascinated when she would go to her uncles’ home in the neighbouring street. “The sitting room of their house is full of medals and mementos and trophies. From the floor to ceiling it was covered with them. I always used to wonder what it would be to have something like that. I’m an international boxer myself now but I don’t think I’ve won as much as them,” she says.
If Bhiwani is one of boxing’s strongholds in India, the Lamboria family is one of the heavyweights. Jaismine’s great grand father (and Parvinder and Sandeep’s grandfather) was Captain Hawa Singh – who remains the only Indian boxer to win consecutive gold medals at the Asian Games, and who later was one of the founders of the Bhiwani Boxing Club which produced boxers like Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar.
Parvinder and Sandeep were accomplished in their own right as well. Sandeep, now 35, won two senior national titles and competed at the youth commonwealth Games. Parvinder his elder by two years, was India’s premier 75kg boxer prior to Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Kumar, winning seven straight national youth and then senior titles at middleweight between 2000 and 2007. He also competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Manchester losing by just a solitary point 16-15 which denied him a bronze medal.
While the medals and trophies are reminders, Jaismine only has fleeting memories of their boxing careers itself. “I was very small but I remember, that when Parvinder chacha would fight, they were showing it on TV and the whole family would gather to watch it,” she recalls.
Despite watching her uncle’s exploits, Jaismine didn’t box at first. “There were many boxers in our family but they were all men,” she says.
Parvinder and Sandeep would eventually change that tradition. They both retired within a few months of each other in 2007 – Sandeep due to a hand injury and Parvinder due to damage suffered to his knee. “Back then there was no knowledge of recovery and rehabilitation. If you got a major injury you were done,” says Sandeep.
As they transitioned into coaching, first coaching boxers in the Haryana Police before eventually setting up their own academy in 2013. A few years later, the then class 10 student, Jaismine also asked if she could train. "They used to ask me if I wanted to do a sport. I said I wanted to be a boxer. There was no pressure but that’s what I wanted to do,” she says.
Sandeep and Parvinder’s own children were very young and they weren’t very keen to train another family member. But they quickly realised the young girl had potential. “She was very skinny and not very strong. But she also had very long arms which is very good for boxing. I told her mother she had the natural build for a boxer. She was also very gifted. After just her fifth session, we had her box against a girl who had been training for a year. And the two were evenly matched. That’s when I thought she has a lot of talent. She is able to learn things very fast,” says Sandeep.
Realising her potential, her uncles backed her to the hilt. “When I was young, my father didn’t have a steady job. So at that time Parvinder chacha and Sandeep chacha really supported me. They gave me boxing shoes and gloves. They would advise me what to eat and what not to eat. After training Parvinder chacha would make sure I got the right diet to eat. If I got hurt they’d advise me how to recover,” she says.
For Sandeep and Parvinder this was nothing out of the ordinary. “When we boxed, there was a lot of things we didn’t know. We didn’t have a lot of knowledge about nutrition or injury recovery. If something go hurt, our coaches would tell us to keep training anyway. Because of that, our careers got shortened. But each of us has 15 years of boxing experience. So we share what we can with Jaismine. Sometime back Jaismine also had a mild shoulder injury and because we know what could happen if we overtrained her, we advised her to rest and do rehabilitation. ” says Sandeep.
They also drilled her to be fearless. “At the time I joined the academy, there weren’t many girls who were boxing. So my uncles would always make me practise against boys. Sometimes even they would get in the ring and spar with me. It used to be hard and a few times I actually got stunned by a punch but I think it helped me,” says Jaismine.
“It wasn’t that because she was a family member we would be easy on her. Once she began training, she was just another boxer for us. At home we called her by her nickname – Chinu – but in the boxing hall she was just Jaismine,” says Sandeep.
With that tough love and with her fundamentals in place, Jaismine started finding her feet in competition. She won the inter university title in 2019 – beating future world bronze medalist Manisha Moun. She’d win the national youth title for the first time the same year. Then, in 2021, she took bronze at the Asian Championships at 57kg. More recently she would beat Tokyo Olympian and two-time world medalist Simranjit Kaur in the selection trials for the World Championships in Turkey. While she wouldn’t medal losing by split decision to eventual gold medal winner Rashida Ellis in the quarterfinals, Jaismine still managed to impress her coaches.
“Her basics are very strong. She has great technique. She utilises her tall height very well to dominate other boxers with her long-range shots. She also moves very well so she always finds angles which other boxers struggle with. But most importantly she’s a very fearless fighter. You put her in the ring with anyone and she will box her own game,” says national coach.
That praise is testament to the work her uncles have put into her development. While they no longer coach her when she is part of the national camp, the two will still travel to cheer her during bouts in India and speak to her when she is competing abroad. “We will talk every day when I have a competition. They will discuss my opponents and also boost my confidence. I’m very close to them. Where I am in boxing is because of them,” she says.
As Jaismine prepares for the Commonwealth Games, her two uncles hope she will eclipse them. “Jaismine’s not our real daughter but we treat her like one. It’s the dream of every coach and every parent that their child should achieve what we couldn’t ourselves. We were good boxers but we never medalled at the Commonwealth Games. We know Jaismine has the ability to get a Commonwealth medal as well,” says Sandeep.
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