The first Indian to qualify for the Olympics in his division, Satish Kumar is keen to make the most of the opportunity at the Tokyo Games.
Going into the Asian Olympic Boxing Qualifiers, India’s super heavyweight (+91kg) pugilist Satish Kumar was flying under the radar.
A bye in the opening round in Amman, Jordan meant that the Indian boxer only had Mongolia’s Daivii Otgonbayar standing in his way of a place at the Tokyo Olympics.
And with the Mongolian struggling to find his feet on the day, the Indian boxer enjoyed a fine bout to seal his place at the Tokyo Games.
“It was a delightful moment for me because I became the first boxer from India to qualify for the Olympics in the super heavyweight category,” Satish Kumar told the Olympic Channel in an exclusive chat recollecting that historic moment.
“I feel me qualifying from the super heavyweight for the first time ever has shown the future generations the way and instilled a belief in them to qualify from the division in the future as well. They can ask themselves ‘if Satish can do it then why can’t I?”
Though qualifying for the Games helped Satish Kumar cross the first hurdle, he knows the job is far from done. And the Indian doesn’t have to look far beyond his following bout in Amman to realise what awaits him at the Olympics.
Up against one of his favourite boxers and the reigning world champion Bakhodir Jalolov of Uzbekistan, Satish Kumar found it hard to get going and was often caught off guard as Jalolov romped home to a convincing win.
The Indian knows the challenge just gets tougher from here. “The super heavyweight division has become very strong over the past few years. The youngest in the division are very good and have been putting in the performances as well,” he said.
“It’s great to be the first boxer from India to qualify for the Olympics in the super heavyweight category. But I know that I still have a long way to go before the Olympics.”
Growing up in Bulandshahr, a town in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, boxing was never on Satish Kumar’s mind during his early days.
Like any other teenager in India, all that the pugilist wanted to do was have a great time on the field. “I used to play cricket, hockey and kabaddi. People from my place aren’t that aware of what they want to do as youngsters,” he said.
While soon he would follow his elder brother into the Indian Army, it was here that he was introduced to boxing.
Encouraged into taking up the sport after the coaches at the armed forces decided to make good use of his built, Satish Kumar took to boxing like fish to water and was quick to establish himself in the domestic circuit.
Though it took a while before the success translated at the international stage as well, once it did, the Indian has ensured that he improved his performances with every passing bout.
A self-confessed front-foot boxer, the soldier from the Kumaon regiment might not be perfect but that hasn’t stopped him going for glory. “I am not the most technical boxer, but I have a lot of endurance, which I try to take advantage of,” he explained.
“My aim is usually to defeat my opponent by tiring him out in the ring and making them miss their punches.”
Though this tactic has worked well for Satish Kumar so far, he knows he will have to add a lot more to his armoury when he takes to the ring at the Tokyo Olympics.
And the nation-wide lockdown to curb the spread of COVID-19 hasn’t stopped him from working towards that goal. “I think my training is going on well despite the lockdown,” Satish Kumar revealed.
“The coaches have chalked out weekly training programmes which we are expected to follow. And then there are video sessions too, where if I have any doubts or if I find something hard, the problem is addressed. We send them a video of our training as well and they keep telling us what to do.”
How much will the workouts within the confines of his house help, only time can tell. But one thing is for certain, Satish Kumar has definitely given Indian boxers in the heaviest division a reason to dream.