On Monday, as boxers at Akhil Kumar’s coaching centre, the Bhiwani Coaching Club (BBC), prepared to watch the big fight, a win was not just expected. It was taken for granted.
At a nearby municipal market, whistles and hooters sold for Rs 5. Chaos came free.
The day began early with a puja, led by coach Jagdish Singh, his family and trainees at the academy. An hour before the bout in Beijing, residents of Bhiwani stormed Kumar’s club as if it were a rock concert venue.
“I have always come to see him train here. And this is where I will watch the bout,” said Akhand Ram Shouran, a local elder.
By afternoon, this boxing club turned into a hotspot of national glamour.
As chunky outdoor broadcast vans, teeming locals and journalists took up vantage positions, the president of the club, Kamal Singh, proffered an unexpected apology: “We don’t have enough chairs for all of you. Excuse us.”
Nand Kishore, the son of a former Haryana minister from Bhiwani, arrived with a cart full of snacks for the audience: wafers, chanaas and cola bottles. As soon as the make-or-break bout began, a loud cheer crackled. Towards the third round, as Akhil stumbled, the cheers toned down to murmurs of frustration.
“Akhil put up a brave fight. Who says he has lost? He has won,” declared 14-year-old Satbir, one of BBC’s youngest boxers. Coach Jagdish Singh’s wife, Champa Devi, agreed.
Bhiwani residents refused to believe Akhil’s loss on Monday had anything to do with the way he fought. “Hand of fate,” says Aarti Bargujjar, as she steps out of the club clutching her young son.
Bhiwani has lost no hope. All eyes are now on Vijender and Jitender, whose bouts are scheduled on Wednesday.