At 22, with a gold in the Commonwealth Championships earlier this year and an Arjuna Award last month, Dinesh Kumar, along with friend-mentor Vijender Singh, is one of our brightest boxing hopes for the Commonwealth Games. The strapping six-foot lord of the ring is unfazed by the pressure. “Australia and England have good boxers but I have beaten those guys earlier. I’ll have the advatange of a home crowd,” he reasons. “Hausla buland hai (My confidence is high), I promise you a good fight. Our boxers should bag at least five medals in Delhi,” says Dinesh.
The assurance is dented somewhat when the memories of his first-round exit in the 2008 Beijing Olympics surface. “It was my first big competition and I lacked experience. Also, luck was not on my side. The boy I had lost to then, Abdelhafid Benchabla, an Algerian, I defeated him in the World Cup a month later,” he says. “If only I had won a medal like Vijender two years ago, life would have been so different. Naam (fame), izzat (respect), paisa (money), may be even film offers, I would have got it all,” exclaims Dinesh.
The pugilist made it to the quarter-finals of the World Boxing Championship in Milan last year in the 81-kg category but lost 3-5 to Russian Beterbiev Artur. He, however, clinched an easy gold in the Commonwealth Championship this March.
Dinesh attributes his recent successes to a change in his technique. “Earlier, I played a dhakka-mukka (punch-and pummell) power game. But with experience and speed, my style has become more refined yet lethal,” he says, admitting that he wants to emulate his roommate and sparring partner, Vijender Singh. “As a team we share our strengths and weaknesses. I often chew Vijender’s ears for advice. Viju, along with DGP Ranjiv Singh Dalal and my brother, Rajesh Kumar, are my idols,” he says.
The punch hitter also sees a role model in Salman Khan. Like Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg, Dinesh is a cop with Haryana police and identifies himself with Salman. “This job is going to give me my rozi roti (daily bread) after I retire from boxing. Of course, I intend to help poor boys with money and share my experiences with a few too,” says the real-life Robinhood.
Retirement is a part of distant future. There are still many rivals to be pounded and medals to be won. “I want to fight for the country,” he asserts, which is why, despite signing up for the World Boxing Series, he has decided not to play for Delhi this year. “It would mean more money but I wouldn’t be able to play for India. If not for amateur boxing, I would have been doing some chhota mota (small) business, I have to give something back now,” he says.
Dinesh, a farmer’s son, was initiated into boxing by his elder brother Tanej Pal. “Watching him in the ring, I realised that boxing could be my passport to name and fame,” he reminisces. Dinesh's passion for the sport prompted his brother to talk to his coach to take up on the 10 year old. “It’s been 12 years since and my brother still calls me before big matches and gives me tips,” he smiles.
Dinesh was in Mumbai earlier this month to promote Fight Nights with Vijender Singh. He’s upbeat about this new format but insists that for the next two months, he’ll be focussed on winning gold in the CWG and the Asian Games. “I too want to be a poster boy like Vijender, aur manzil nazdeek hai (and the goal is in sight),” he asserts.
So, is he open to modelling offers, may be even a movie like the Patiala Express? “Why not?” Dinesh retorts. “You have only one life and I want to try everything. But boxing will always be my Mission No. 1.” When asked about any special lady in his life, he grins, “No, but koshish jaari hai, jaldi hi yeh kami bhi puri ho jayegi (efforts are on to take care of this shortcoming too).”
A day in his life
5.00 am: Wake-up, take God’s name and then start thinking of what lies ahead.
6.00 am: Start three-hour training
9.30 am: Breakfast of toast, eggs, cornflakes or dalia
10 am-12 noon: Siesta
12.30 pm-1.30 pm: Lunch of rice, rotis, veggies, chicken and soup
1.30 pm –5 pm: Watch TV or a movie or chat with friends
5 pm-7 pm: Evening training
7 pm: Return to room and cool down
8.30 pm-9.30 pm: Dinner of rice, roti, chicken or mutton, veggies and milk
9.30 pm -10.30 pm: Watch TV or have friendly arguments with friends
10.30 pm: Bhagwan ka naam lo and goodnight!
A film to watch...
Well, I’ve seen Dabangg three times already
An actor who can play Dinesh Kumar on screen?
Salman Khan, for sure
A book that inspires you?
Biography of Subhash Chandra Bose and Bhagat Singh
My village. I go home every weekend and hang out with my old friends
Best loved item in your wardrobe?
A pair of Levis jeans
You never leave home without...
My Maruti Swift
A favourite TV programme?
News and if I can catch it, CID on Sony
A much-loved food item...
A food item you can forgo?
Fave sport, apart from boxing?
Football, I’m a Ronaldo fan
I’m terrified of…
My parents, mummy bahut maarti hai (spanks me a lot)
To become a champion boxer...
Be ready to work 24x 7 and endure some hard knocks
Steer clear of food dripping in oil. Stick to snacks that are easy to digest like dry fruits. Eat a well-balanced diet, on time, and at regular intervals. Drink lots of milk
Between tournaments, we have a three-hour training session in the gym that focuses on endurance and full-body fitness. As a tournament nears, the session time may be cut short by 30 minutes because the focus is more on speed.
Where to learn
The Biwani Boxing Club, it’s given us some of our biggest boxing stars
A CWG Gold could fetch us cash awards amounting to Rs 50 lakh. The Haryana government has already announced incentives to the tune of Rs 15 lakh, and the Central Government should offer at least Rs 20 lakh in cash. An Olympic and World Championship medal can earn you in crores. Fight Nights are a viable alternative for boxers. You can make Rs 1 lakh from fighting three rounds in three minutes.
Boxing schedule for CWG, Delhi, 2010
Venue: Talkatora Indoor Stadium
Light Flyweight 46-49 kg
Flyweight 52 kg
Bantamweight 56 kg
Lightweight 60 kg
Light Welterweight 64 kg
Welterweight 69 kg
Middleweight 75 kg
Light Heavyweight 81 kg
Heavyweight 91 kg
Super heavyweight +91 kg
Winning moves: Four-time National Champion, won a gold in SAAF Games in 2006. in 2007, won two gold medals in the National Games in Guwahati and in the Senior National Championship in Hyderabad. In 2008, bagged a silver medal in Asian Boxing Qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan and in 2010 March won a gold at the Commonwealth Boxing Championships in Delhi.