Determination to pursue boxing — against the odds — is at the heart of Nanao Singh’s success.

The first time he put on boxing gloves, World Youth Championship gold medallist Thokchom Nanao Singh’s furious father packed him off to a boarding school. Ten years and six international medals later, his parents are happy that he defied them.

Early start

“Actually a friend of mine, who used to box, took me to the ring for the first time and I liked it very much. Then Dingko Singh won the gold medal in 1998 Asian Games and that was when I decided to become a boxer but my parents were furious,” says the diminutive light fly-weight boxer, who was barely eight when he took to the ring.

“I was the youngest in the family and understandably my parents wanted me to focus on studies. But I refused to go to school until allowed to box. Then they sent me to a boarding school but I ran away from there as well,” he revealed.

Nanao said his act of defiance finally forced his strict father to call a local boxing coach, who guided him initially before the Army Sports Institute in Pune groomed him for international competitions.

The 18-year-old, with a trendy get-up and a cool demeanour, has an enviable international record, winning medals at every tournament outside India with the latest being the silver medal at the Asian championship in Zhuhai, China.

“It’s a combination of luck and skill. I am not overtly aggressive in the ring and like to keep my guard up. I prefer counter-punching to attacking; besides I try and remain calm even if I am trailing. This, sometimes, helps me to come out of even losing situations,” said Nanao, who left his first love football for boxing.

Making a mark

Inspired by the legendary Muhammad Ali and home grown heroes like Dingko and Olympian Akhil Kumar, Nanao says Vijender Singh’s Beijing bronze galvanised Indian boxing like never before, the proof of which lies in the respect that the country’s boxers are now getting in international events.

“Our rivals no longer take us for granted. I remember the Commonwealth Youth Championship last year in England; we were not taken all that seriously there. But in Mexico, the guys from even strong countries like Russia and Cuba were slightly intimidated by us,” said the Manipuri pugilist.

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