CHENNAI: Near the statue of Mahatma Gandhi on the Marina Beach, Chennai’s boxers come six days a week before sunrise to hone their bodies into fighting machines.
They are, usually, a group of twenty, headed by their experienced coach Tamil Selvam, a former fighter who used to compete at the national level as a welterweight and light-middleweight.
“My father Sundar Raj started the tradition of boxing in the family and it is carried on by me and my son,” said Mr. Selvam, who works for Southern Railway.
His son is a computer science student.
Another boxer, Ganesh was interested in boxing since childhood. He is a policeman who has boxed for six months. “I have watched and studied Muhammad Ali’s fights closely. “There were no opportunities to learn the sport in the village I come from and you need some expertise in boxing.”
According to him “you can learn cricket, basketball or football anywhere in India but with boxing it is a little more difficult.”
Ramkumar has fought for a year and a half, winning in four local matches. He works for a private company and likes the fast and graceful movements of fighters. Mr. Ramkumar began “fighting late” because his family forbade him from participating in the sport. His parents were afraid of injuries he could sustain. Today, he ‘regrets this’ and wishes he had started earlier.
Mr. Ramkumar explained that they practised with fourteen ounce and twelve ounce gloves in training to make it tougher for them than in the actual bouts.
Asked how many of his boxers were serious, Mr. Selvam replied: “Eight eat, sleep, drink and live for boxing.”
Four of his prodigies, Vicky, Jagan, Rajkumar and Ranjith Kumar, have won junior national championships (under sixteen). However, the main attraction in his stable is a six year old named S. Nitish, who has only boxed for two months but has attained a skill level which is astonishing. Nitish “can do everything which the older boxers can do and he grasps whatever you teach him.”
To prove he is not exaggerating, Selvam kneels down onto one knee and lets the maestro do his work. He hits the pads with impressive combinations, showing a decent repertoire of punches.
Nitish can already do things that most six year old boxers cannot do, especially if they had trained for just two months. He is a special talent.
Fortunately, he has the support of his family and his father ‘is happy’ he is into boxing.
Mr. Selvam is confident he will have a successful future.