Punching past stereotypes

In 2012, Sakshi was enrolled in the famous Bhiwani Boxing Club, which has produced several top boxers under the guidance of Jagdish Singh. Later, Nitu followed in the footsteps of her friend.

Girl Power: Sakshi Chaudhary in action during the AIBA World Youth Women’s Boxing Championship in Guwahati. A disciplined athlete and a fast learner, Sakshi is expected to soon make a mark in the senior category.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

Age: 17

From: Dhanana village (Bhiwani), Haryana

Education: Both are first year graduation students. While Nitu is studying at the Guru Gobind Singh Khalsa College, Chandigarh, Sakshi Chaudhary is enrolled in a college affiliated to Chaudhary Bansi Lal University, near her village.

Discipline: Boxing: Nitu (48 kg) and Sakshi (54 kg)

The beginning: Despite their humble background, childhood friends Manoj Kumar and Jai Bhagwan were quite progressive in their thinking. They wanted to put their girls, Nitu and Sakshi, in a sport that would keep them physically active.

In 2012, Sakshi was enrolled in the famous Bhiwani Boxing Club, which has produced several top boxers under the guidance of Jagdish Singh. Later, Nitu followed in the footsteps of her friend.

“I was the first girl from my village to take up boxing. Then Nitu joined. Our fathers used to take us on two-wheelers and we would travel 20 km twice a day to Bhiwani for training,” says Sakshi, who is a month older than Nitu.

Echoing the same sentiments, Nitu says: “It feels good that both of us have made our village proud. Because of us some other kids from our village have also taken up boxing.”

Fathers: Nitu’s father Jai Bhagwan works as a Bill Messenger with the Haryana Assembly in Chandigarh. However, he took leave without pay for three and a half years to accompany his eldest daughter to Bhiwani and then to different tournaments. “It was difficult to manage things without salary, but I had to sacrifice as Nitu showed promise,” says Jai Bhagwan.

Fist of fury: Nitu, competing in the light fly-weight category at the AIBA World Youth Women's Boxing Championship, is blessed with natural ability which has seen her rise through the ranks rapidly.   -  Ritu Raj Konwar

 

Sakshi’s father Manoj Kumar is a farmer, who cultivates wheat. “I never nurtured any ambition that my daughter will achieve things. Maybe my aspiration was to see her box in India colours. Her gold medal at the World Junior Championship in 2015 made us hopeful about her future,” says Manoj.

Mothers: In spite of their rural background, Nitu’s mother Mukesh and Sakshi’s mother Sheela Devi always supported their husbands’ decision to put their girls in boxing. “Their mothers never questioned our decisions. They never had fears that the girls might get injured, which would hamper marriage prospects,” says Manoj, with a smile.

Mentor: Coach Jagdish Singh, who is known for producing tough boxers, is proud of Nitu’s and Sakshi's commitment and willingness to work hard. “Nitu has got natural talent for boxing. She knows when to attack. That’s why she progressed so fast despite working for a shorter period. I had to push her case for the National (youth) camp and she proved herself. Even Mary Kom appreciates her boxing sense,” says Jagdish.

“Sakshi is a good learner. She is very disciplined and avoids all sorts of distractions. Her focus, strong will and confidence are her positive points,” adds Jagdish.

Achievements: Nitu: 2016: National youth championship: Bronze medal

2017: All-India SAI event: Gold; Balkan youth international tournament: Gold & World youth championship: Gold

Sakshi: 2015: World junior championship: Gold

2017: Balkan youth international tournament: Gold & World youth championship: Gold

Aim: The immediate target for Nitu and Sakshi, who are currently training in the National camp at the National Boxing Academy in Rohtak, is to claim gold medals at the Asian Youth Championship in Thailand in April.

With the World Women’s Boxing Championship scheduled to be held in Delhi in November, both want to graduate to the next level and make an impact among the elite boxers.

“Any boxer who dons India colours wants to represent the country and win medals at the Olympics. Our daughters are no different,” says Manoj Kumar.

However, Manoj is categorical that as parents they exert no pressure on their teenage girls. “Had they not done well in boxing, even then we would have supported them. After all, it was our decision to put them in boxing,” says Manoj.