Inspired by Lomachenko, Shiva Thapa optimistic on Olympic goals

Indian pugilist Shiva Thapa has learned tricks of the trade from the iconic Vasyl Lomachenko and remains optimistic of making it to the 2020 Olympics.

Shiva Thapa (63kg) progressed to the finals of the ongoing 4th Elite Men’s National Boxing Championships.   -  PTI

Even though he knows that his road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will not be easy, former World Championships medal winner and four-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa remains optimistic.

As per Boxing Federation of India (BFI) rules, current medalists in World Championships will directly make it to the Asian Olympic qualifier in February. Manish Kaushik has already booked his berth in 63kg after securing a bronze medal in Ekaterunburg last month.

“Since the first qualifier is not in my hand, I will be looking forward to the second one. If there is any other event, I will take part in that. More tournaments will make me stronger. I have just kept patience and working hard,” said Thapa, after reaching the 63kg final at the National Boxing Championships here on Wednesday.

Familiar with Manish’s game, the 25-year-old from Assam complimented his arch-rival for his feat. “Winning a medal in the World championships is not easy. Technically he is a sorted boxer. But if someone knows how to attack a counterattacking boxer, then he is in trouble.”

RELATED| National boxing: Akash Sangwan stuns Ankush Dahiya, to meet Shiva Thapa in final

Thapa, who made the jump from 60kg to 63kg earlier this year and won a gold medal after getting a walkover from Kazakhstan’s Zakir Safiullin in the President’s Cup in July, said he changed his game for the new weight.

“Many boxers are coming from 64kg (to Olympic weight 63kg). In 64kg, there are bigger boxers, so my focus is to feint and go for the body. I am focusing on body punches – upper cuts and body shots – because they wash out the stamina. My upper cut is good. I want to make it stronger,” he said.

Thapa has learnt a trick from Ukrainian professional boxer Vasyl Lomachenko. “I have changed to shifting angles while hitting the body. Many times while hitting straight my head goes down. When you see an opening, you just go for it. But Lomachenko shifts to give more power to his punches. When you are going for the body, you have to shift your angle a bit,” he said.

For Thapa, competing in the Olympics shouldn’t be a goal in itself. “It is not impossible (to change to Olympic weight 57kg), but I have to feel the energy and strength. I am feeling good in 63kg. Why lose weight and energy? It is not good to go to the Olympics for the sake of it.”

The iconic pugilist, who last won the National title at Guwahati in 60kg in 2016, said he always valued the National championships. “This is where my roots are and it keeps me grounded. To face young challengers is another aspect. Sparring is different from competition. I did not have any competition in the last two months. So it’s good,” said Thapa.