How did boxing happen? I didn’t know anything about boxing. In school I was good in athletics. So my elder brother’s friend advised him to enrol my name in a boxing academy. Initially, it was opposed by my father as he said could not afford the expenses. But my brother Vishal supported me and I started working at the boxing academy near Nehru stadium with TJ Naik. After two years, I moved to General Arunkumar Vaidya stadium for advanced training. Since then, I have been working with Vijay Gujar. Can you tell us about your achievements? I won a couple of district and school-level tournaments and later represented the district in junior state-level tournament. In the first tournament in Pune, in 2010, I couldn’t do well, but in the same year, I won a gold medal in the state-level inter-school tournament in Chandrapur. It was an interesting bout as I defeated national under-17 champion Kuldeep Bholane from Akola. During the bout, he tried to bite me and I elbowed him away. Unfortunately, my act was noticed and I was awarded a penalty. Even then, I managed to win with a close score. Then my coach came and asked, if i knew whom I had defeated. He said that he was the best boxer in India in this age group and I won against him. This gave me a huge confidence and I started working more seriously on my game. I was a state champion for three consecutive years and even won a silver in the youth category in 2014. Next year, I graduated to senior level and last year I won my first national medal. HT PHOTOAkshay Mare with boxing champion MC Mary Kom You have trained with top boxers in the country. How was the experience? During the Indian camp at Patiala, I stayed with elite boxers like Shiv Thapa, Manoj Kumar and Mandeep. They all are humble and I interacted with them often. They gave me valuable tips about training and fitness, that helped me a lot. Mandeep, who is a Commonwealth Games silver medallist, taught me how to concentrate on my training without getting disturbed by the surrounding noise. Last year, I also got an opportunity to play a friendly bout with world champion MC Mary Kom at Balewadi, Pune. She is a true inspiration and like many of us, she struggled her way out of poverty and became successful. Diet is a crucial part of any sportsperson. How did you manage it? To recover the body loss, boxers need a heavy diet. So during the India camp, we used to get rich diet. For breakfast we used to get four-to-five boiled eggs, a bowl of porridge with milk, two slices of buttered toast and fresh fruits. For lunch and dinner, we would have boiled chicken or mutton, mixed vegetables, rice, yogurt and more fruits. At regular intervals, chocolates, dry fruits and fresh juices were provided. But at home, if I try to follow the same diet, I would have to spend ₹1,000 per day which is not possible. So, I manage with the best I can. My mother keeps sprouts and green vegetables for me, and that’s my diet. If I get a proper job, I can spend more on my diet. But currently that is not possible, as I am earning very little. For two rupees, I have to climb 10 floors to deliver newspapers. What about other expenses? I had received a one-time scholarship from Sahara Pariwar couple of years back and I managed to buy shoes from it. But, still I need international quality gloves. Right now I am managing it somehow, but having a pair of personal gloves gives you satisfaction. What are your future plans? I have no plans as such. My immediate aim is to win a gold at the national level, so I get a chance to represent the country.