For youngsters in Bhiwani, boxing is the road to redemption.
Having grown up watching their families wage a daily battle for survival, Naveen Kumar, 14, and Sandeep Kumar, 15, got toughened within the precincts of their home.
Naveen, the son of a carpenter, and Sandeep, whose father supports his family from the earnings as a scooter mechanic, made the country proud at the recent Junior World Championship in Kazakhstan. While Naveen (50kg) clinched silver, Sandeep (57kg) got a bronze. Their accomplishments are significant as the eight-member Indian squad could only manage two medals.
"Poverty is the biggest curse and only my father knows how he has brought me up. Though a daily wager, he never let the family's financial condition come in between boxing and me," said Naveen, who won two successive junior national titles before winning the silver at the world meet.
Reared in one of Bhiwani's dingy colonies — Halwas Gate, Dhani Mehtab Dass, Naveen was clear on what he wanted. "Our financial condition did not allow me to spend on the requisites for excelling in the sport. So, I decided to join the Boys Sports Company and now Army Sports Institute, Pune," said Naveen.
Though just three years into the sport, Sandeep won his first junior national gold last year in his maiden appearance. "What I am today is because of my family. My father cut down on expenses so that he could buy me quality shoes," said Sandeep, a trainee of Sports Authority of India (SAI) coach Jagdish Singh.
"Boxing is a demanding sport and it is impossible to do well without proper nutrition. It is only because of the SAI centre that my needs are met," he said.