Jai Bhagwan has seen so many setbacks in his career that he would want to forget them in the run-up to the London Olympic Games. Bhagwan’s stars seemed to be shining when at the Asian Championship in Vietnam in 2005 he became the only Indian boxer to corner a medal — a bronze. After years of setbacks, Indian boxing was seeing the birth of a champ. But by the start of 2008, things had taken an unexpected turn for the Hissar lad.
His performance during the trials for the Beijing Games qualifiers was not good enough to get him a national team berth. Soon, a dejected Bhagwan left the national camp midway and quit the sport. But a year later, he rose from the morass of mediocrity, to be back in the ring, if only to prove that he was far from a spent force. Today, he is a strong medal contender at the London Games.
“When I was dropped from the national squad, I thought there was nothing left for me in the boxing arena and I decided to quit,” he recalls. “But then, Vijender’s bronze medal at Beijing gave me the belief that I too could do it. When I saw a huge crowd at the IGI Airport in Delhi to welcome Vijender, I got motivated. I tagged along with Vijender at every felicitation function for the next two days and basked in borrowed glory. Finally, I made up my mind to give it another try. I have not done much in these intervening years…. I have only fanned my hunger for victory on the biggest stage of all,” says Bhagwan.
More than his motivation running out, Bhagwan has also been plagued by bad luck. A month after the Beijing Olympics, at the Nationals in Bhatinda where the campers for the CWG were to be selected, Bhagwan suffered a deep cut above the right eye and was forced to retire. That gash cost him a place in the campers’ list. Again, it was his close pal, Vijender, who facilitated his entry into the camp.
“Missing the Nationals due to the cut was the biggest setback of my life. It cost me a place in the CWG list of probables. The doors for my re-entry were shut and I was staring at a bleak future. It was then that Vijender requested the federation to include me,” says Bhagwan. “I had to give an undertaking to the federation that I would not leave the camp midway again,” he adds.
“Jai is a talented boxer. But his temperament has come in the way of his progress and he has had to pay the price. At the same time, I won’t ask him to change his temperament as it is his biggest asset in the ring,” says coach GS Sandhu.
But, tempering ones temperament won’t be asking for too much from the boxer, who has seen the ugly side of losing his cool. Life won’t provide him with another gilt-edged opportunity again.