Deepak Kumar with national coach Jai Patil at Strandja Memorial, Sofia.(Special Arrangement)
Deepak Kumar with national coach Jai Patil at Strandja Memorial, Sofia.(Special Arrangement)

Boxer Deepak Bhoria shakes off harsh life, makes ring craft count

The Haryana boxer from a humble background beat the Olympic champion before finishing runner-up at the Strandja Memorial Cup in Sofia.
By Avishek Roy
PUBLISHED ON FEB 27, 2021 10:56 PM IST

Deepak Kumar Bhoria was around 15 and had just started taking his boxing seriously. His training load at Universal Boxing Academy, run by coach Rajesh Sheoran in Rajgarh Road, Hisar (Haryana) was increasing. But everyday Sheoran noticed his most talented pupil was returning with pain in the knees, back and other parts; his body was unable to bear the regimen he was being put through and was falling apart.

Sheoran knew the young boxer’s background. Coming from a joint family with only his father—a home guard—for support, boxing was not a focus area. There were bigger struggles the family had to fight every day. Deepak was left to draw his energy from a simple diet of dal and chawal—no protein, no milk, no supplement. The boxer in Deepak was on the verge of leaving the ring to take the normal course life demanded—lend a helping hand to his family.

Sheoran faced a predicament—either to let him go, or arrange for his diet. He decided on the latter. Deepak was too good a boxer to be left to the mercy of destiny. He called up some of his friends and well-wishers asking them to extend whatever help they could to provide for his diet. As for his fees, Sheoran had waived it off very early in Deepak’s career.

“I spoke to some businessmen nearby to please help him with one litre milk, or one glass juice. I took some loan, some friends came forward and that’s how we were able to arrange for his dietary requirements,” says Sheoran.

“It is an age where a boxer needs a good diet or else there will be injuries. Boxing is a difficult sport.”

Sheoran had faith in Deepak's ability from the day the 11-year-old boy with an emaciated look came to his academy.

“The first thought that came was how he will survive in boxing. He is not meant for it. But when I saw his movements, reaction time, weaving, feinting; it was all natural. We take years to teach these things to kids. There was something special about him,” recalls 49-year-old Sheoran.

That special something was on full display at the Strandja Memorial Cup in Sofia, Bulgaria. Deepak’s speed, counters and accuracy proved too good even for world and Olympic champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the semi-finals on Friday. In the final on Saturday, Deepak fell short against home favourite Daniel Asenov, who won a close bout 3-2.

The feisty Indian though left everything on the ring. The first round saw Asenov come up with an all-attacking tactic while Deepak looked to score from counters. In the second round, the Indian boxer launched himself into all-out attack. The two freely traded punches though Deepak looked more on target even in the third round.

“The last few days have been like a dream come true, beating the Olympic and world champion and winning silver at one of toughest boxing tournaments in the world is very special,” said Deepak.

“I have seen many struggles in life but boxing has given me everything. I will be aiming for more gold medals. I have the confidence that with hard work and dedication everything can be achieved,” said the 23-year-old.

He can be proud of his journey. Every time life threw a challenge—be it a career-threatening injury in 2011 or a knockout he suffered in his first senior nationals in Visakhapatnam in 2017—Deepak has come back stronger.

“That has been his hallmark. He is mentally very strong and fights with a purpose,” says national coach Jai Singh Patil, who saw his talent during the Inter-Services Championships in 2016 and paved the way for his joining Pune’s Army Sports Institute (ASI). He won the senior national title in 2018, and even defeated Amit Panghal in an inter-services contest in 2017.

“He is a class boxer and in the bout against Zoirov, Deepak wanted to win at any cost. He is a very composed boxer and always sticks to the plan. He is mentally calm,” says Patil, who was in Deepak’s corner in Sofia.

He has shown a high level of consistency at international level, winning medals at the Asian Championships, Thailand Open, Makran Cup and World Military Games.

“It’s not a coincidence that he has beaten an Olympic champion. Deepak is at his level,” says Indian boxing high performance manager Santiago Nieva.

“Deepak is technically gifted. You watch him and see him enjoy his bout, very intelligent and has good control of the bout. He has moved up from 49kg to 52kg. He earlier lacked a bit of strength, but has worked on it,” said Nieva.

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