Manish Kaushik was the ninth and final Indian boxer to make the cut for the Tokyo Games at the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers at Amman, Jordan in March.
Having failed to advance via the quarter-final round for the men’s light (57-63kg) weight category, the 24-year-old was in a sink-or-swim situation as he went into the box-off.
However, despite a last-round loss, being on top in the first two rounds had earned him enough points to ensure a win over second seed Harry Garside, and as a result, he secured a berth at the Tokyo Olympics alongside Amit Panghal, MC Mary Kom and co.
The Commonwealth Games and World Championships medallist will now get a chance to add another chapter to his illustrious career that was borne out of necessity.
Bhiwani is a name that is synonymous with Indian boxing. Over the last two decades, the Haryana district nicknamed ‘Mini Cuba’ produced accomplished boxers like Kavita Chahal, Jitender Kumar and Vijender Kumar, to name a few.
Manish Kaushik was destined to be added to the list when he was born in Bhiwani on January 11, 1996.
Coming from a humble farming background where he was mostly kept busy helping his parents grow wheat and cotton, Manish Kaushik had made up his mind early to succeed in boxing in order to provide a better life for his family.
Beginning his mornings at 4am, he strove to balance his studies and training with a tunnel-eyed focus of achieving his dream in boxing.
It wasn’t long before Manish Kaushik experienced his first taste of success, winning the gold medal in the Doha International Boxing Tournament in Qatar in 2015.
Manish Kaushik’s national foray
In 2016, he joined the Indian Army and was soon boxing for the Service camp, where his natural talent in the ring was soon spotted by their senior coach Narender Rana.
“I knew we had a boxer who could win us a medal in the Olympics,” Rana had told Scroll.in at the time.
Manish Kaushik’s first big taste of success came the following year itself when he outboxed Shiva Thapa to become national champion.
“I went on to become the sub-junior national champion and came into the senior camp in 2016 after I defeated Shiva in the senior national finals,” recounted Manish Kaushik, “That's when it became very serious and big for me.”
The same year, the Indian boxer clinched the silver medal at the Kazakhstan International Boxing Tournament.
Manish Kaushik cracks the Commonwealth
The nationals wouldn’t be the last time Manish Kaushik showed up Shiva Thapa.
In the race for a spot in the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Manish Kaushik, who also won the gold medal at the 2018 Asian Games in his division, prevailed over the Assamese pugilist, Shiva Thapa once again.
At the Commonwealth Games, Kaushik made it all the way to the semi-final, settling for a silver medal after losing to Aussie boxer Harry Garside.
Manish Kaushik’s road to the Olympics
In the lead-up to the Olympic year, Manish Kaushik set himself up nicely by earning a bronze medal at the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Yekaterinburg, Russia, where the Indian boxer lost to eventual champion Andy Cruz of Cuba in the semi-final.
Winning that World Championship medal paved the path for direct entry into the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers, where he paid back second seed Harry Garside for that Commonwealth defeat two years ago by winning the box-off.
Narender Rana, who had vouched for Manish Kaushik’s Olympic chances back in 2016, said, “I always knew he had it in him to perform well in big tournaments. What stood out was his speed and flexibility were so good. Each and every time he steps into the ring, he knows how to duck the hits and play on the counter.”
The Tokyo dream
To prove Narender Rana and the countless others right in their assessment that he can win India a medal at the Olympics, Manish Kaushik will know that he must improve between now and the Tokyo Games.
Having qualified for the Olympics via the box-off, the Indian boxer will be aware that he has to produce much-improved performances against more competitive pugilists from around the world in Japan.
That said, if his box-off win did prove something then that would have to be his ability to improve. After all, as mentioned earlier, the boxer he got in the box-off was none other than Harry Garside, the same pugilist he had lost to in the 2018 Commonwealth Games final bout.
The win over Harry Garside showcased his ability to bounce back from setbacks and disappointments in style. With plenty of time to prepare for the Tokyo Games, Manish Kaushik will be looking to improve further in his bid for an Olympic medal - a lifelong dream.