Picture by AFP

‘Couldn’t let my father down,’ says boxer Satish Kumar on his Tokyo 2020 bout

The Indian braveheart fought in the men’s super heavyweight quarterfinals despite having 13 stitches on forehead and chin
By Deepti Patwardhan

The run up to Satish Kumar’s quarterfinal against World No 1 Bakhodir Jalolov at Tokyo 2020 wasn’t ideal. The Indian super heavyweight boxer, who had suffered deep cuts on his forehead and chin in the previous bout, was given medical clearance only a few hours before the fight. He was one step away from confirming an Olympic medal, but the more people he spoke to, took advice from, the more muddled his thoughts became.

“My mind was diverted for sure. I spoke to my coaches whether I should fight or not; my wife didn’t want me to continue. I had 13 stitches but this was a big chance at the Olympics,” the 32-year-old told Olympics.com.

“My father and elder brother sent me a video message, telling me I should fight. My father told me, ‘You already have a cut, what’s the worst that can happen? The cut will deepen.’ He told me I should play no matter what. Olympics is the ultimate prize and if I didn’t even try I would have to live with that regret forever.”

Kumar had joined the Indian Army mainly to emulate his elder brother, whom he absolutely idolizes.

“I couldn’t let my father and brother down. Even I wanted to fight and what they said just helped firm my resolve to continue.”

Another reason Kumar was determined to lay it all out in the boxing ring was that he was denied a chance at qualification for Rio 2016 because of injury. The referee had to stop his Round of 16 clash against Ireland’s Dean Gardiner in the Olympic qualification tournament in Baku in 2016 since Kumar had received deep cut on his eyebrow.

“That was definitely playing on my mind,” said Kumar.

“In fact, it was at the Olympic qualifiers in 2016 that I decided that I want to compete in the Olympics. Before that I didn’t know much about the Games and wasn’t sure how I would perform on the big stage. But the boxer against whom I lost that bout (Gardiner) went on to reach the finals. I had given him a very good fight. And I knew if I could compete well with boxers like him I could one day compete at the Olympics.”

On his Olympics debut in Tokyo, Kumar scored a 4-1 win over Ricardo Brown. Even though he lost the fight against Jalolov 0-5, he gained everyone’s, including his opponent’s respect.

“Jalolov was very kind to me,” he said. “He told me I had done very well to complete the fight despite being injured. He even tweeted about me. The reception I have got in India, and back home in my village (Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh) has been fantastic. It has given me a lot of confidence.”

After a whirlwind tour of India, where the Indian Olympians were feted, Kumar reached home last week. He will soon return to full training and is eyeing a good show at the World Championships in October.