Nineteen-year-old Shiva Thapa, the newly crowned Asian boxing champion (bantamweight), is ready to face new challenges

“Thapaji, mubarak ho!” A man in his early ’50s, working as a receptionist in a modest hotel in Paharganj in Delhi, greeted 19-year-old Shiva Thapa, the newly crowed Asian boxing champion in the bantamweight category.

The Paharganj hotel is a hub of the boxers bound for overseas assignments. The receptionist has seen the young Thapa, with a cherubic face and dazzling smile, grow in stature — from being a World Youth silver medallist to an Asian champion — in the last three years. The Guwahati-born Thapa stands out not only for his achievements at such a young age but also for his persona in the company of his fellow pugilists, who are known more for their brawn than brain. Soft-spoken, intelligent and modern (in every sense of the term), Thapa is a perfect youth icon.

Sport is in his blood and Thapa has banked on it. He was introduced to boxing by his father Padam Thapa, a martial arts practitioner, at age of seven and he had been on the path of progress since then. “My father guided me a lot during my early years. He has always been a guiding force,” says Thapa. His gloves made such an impact within his family that his elder brother Gobind also followed suit and emerged as a national level boxer.

A great admirer of Mike Tyson, Thapa thinks that skills and intelligence assume equal importance in a power sport like boxing. Of course, one has to put in the required effort to achieve the desired target. “I have been handling pressure since my sub-junior days (in 2008). So, I know how to handle pressure. Over the years, I have also learnt how to keep one’s focus. I believe in hard work,” asserts Thapa.

A quick learner, Thapa is always keen to improve and adapt to the changes. “The (London) Olympics taught me a lot. I was not very experienced and it was a big stage…I worked on my flaws and performed better in the Asian championship (in Amman, Jordan). I had to be more aggressive under the new scoring system. The next challenge will be fighting without a headgear (the other change to be seen in amateur boxing soon),” says Thapa, the third Indian to win an Asian championship gold medal in two decades.

His quest for perfection should take him far. “In order to be the best, I have to beat the best,” he adds with the confidence of a champion.