Pro-boxing is not for the mentally-weak, says Neeraj Goyat

In an interview with Sportstar, the three-time WBC Asia Welterweight champion talks about his successful title defence, his switch to pro-boxing and his burning desire for Olympic glory.

Neeraj Goyat (R) in action in the Super Boxing League.   -  Special Arrangements


Neeraj Goyat recently scripted history when he successfully defended his World Boxing Council (WBC) Asia Welterweight title for the third time in a strongly contested bout against a higher-ranked and more-seasoned Allan Tanada, at Battleground Asia 2017 on August 5.

“It feels great to be the first Indian to win the title thrice. My opponent was ranked well above me and the fact that he's one of Philippines' best boxers – the same country that Manny Pacquiao represented – makes it a sweeter win,” said an elated Goyat, in a telephone interview with Sportstar. “I always accept challenges from fighters who are better than me to defend my title,” the 25-year-old added, with a hint of pride.

Currently poised at 37 in the WBC rankings, his position is expected to shoot up in the updated list. He admitted that this was the biggest win of his pro-boxing career and he looks forward to carrying the momentum into his upcoming bouts.

While this might be the pugilists' biggest win, the pivotal moment in Goyat's pro-boxing career was his triumph over Ben Kite in 2016. “That was the turning point because after the win, people started to know me and I made history becoming the first Indian to enter the WBC rankings,” he said.

Despite possessing an impressive record in amateur boxing, he decided to turn pro after missing out on Olympic qualification in 2012. “I've won medals in the national and commonwealth championships. I had a good career in amateur boxing but I decided to make the switch in 2012.

I wanted to attend the 2012 Olympic qualification but my compatriot, Jai Bhagwan got the chance. I realised that the next Olympics was four years away and did not want to wait that long. That's when I decided to switch to pro-boxing,” according to Goyat.

The former youth national winner enjoys the longer fights in pro-boxing which consists of 12 intensive rounds. “Amateur matches are of only three rounds and I found them quite hurried. I feel like I have been made for pro-boxing,” he quipped.

“I have much more time in 12 rounds and can figure out my opponent and look for a way to over-power him. As the rounds progress, I feel like my energy levels increase too,” he added.

Goyat is then quick to mention that pro-boxing may not be every boxer's cup-of-tea. “It is more demanding for sure – it demands a lot of strength and endurance. Pro-boxing is not for the mentally weak, you need to be able to hang in there,” he said.

To his surprise the fighter from Haryana was allowed to participate in the 2016 Olympic qualifiers despite his switch to pro-boxing. “I found out it was possible only one month before the contest and was thrilled to have gotten the opportunity,” he said.

While he did put up a spirited performance, he was knocked out in the semifinal at the hands of Germany's Arajik Marutjan. “It was a great chance and I was certain of making it to the Olympics. I will feel the pinch of not qualifying for the rest of my life,” he said, solemnly, while adding, “I would say it was the best experience of my amateur career.”

Goyat also led his side, the Haryana Warriors, into the final of the ongoing Super Boxing League (SBL). Speaking of the league, he said, “No one has ever done something of this sort for boxing in India until now. SBL features boxers from various levels and has benefited boxers a lot. If such leagues happen twice in a year, I can confidently say that no boxer will be strapped for money.”

Summing up, Goyat affirms that he wants to become like his idol Mike Tyson – whose moves he often tries to imitate in the ring – and become one of the greatest of the sport. “The qualifications for the next Olympics are in 2019 and I really want to reclaim what I left behind in Venezuela in 2016,” he concluded, with utmost determination.

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