How difficult was it to make a comeback after three years?
It was a big challenge because the wrist injury was not allowing me to get back into my flow. The last three-to-four years have been tough because of injuries. I have never gone through such a difficult period in my life. At times I doubted if I could get back to the same level. I had surgeries — before and after the qualifiers for the London Olympics. I am just glad that I could make it back into the ring.
At 33, did you fancy making a comeback?
Age has nothing to do with sport. It is my stubbornness that keeps me going. Look at George Foreman, who is the oldest heavyweight champion in boxing history. He retired at the age of 48. I believe you just need to have the desire, and need someone to inspire you to get that psychological boost. You need people around; to take care of your injuries and who tell you that you can still do it. My wife (Poonam) and coaches like Gurbax Sandhu, Jaidev Bisht and Amreek Singh made it possible.
With boxers now fighting without headgear how valuable will your experience be?
I always liked to box without the headgear. However, in international tournaments it is tough without a headgear as you hardly get a day’s gap. Whereas in the World Series of Boxing, where I played for Mumbai Fighters, we got at least two weeks of rest before the next fight. I was head-butted by an opponent during a WSB bout. After that I was wary of getting too close to opponents because wounds can open up any time. To fight without a headgear, you need to be a skilled boxer. All the hard work goes in vain if the boxer picks up an injury during the bout when fighting without headgear.
For most part of your career you have boxed in the bantamweight category. How difficult was it to make the switch to the lightweight category?
Shifting weight categories is not new to me. I started with 48 kg, where I won my first international medal in Russia in 2001, and then moved to the 51 kg. After the Afro Asian Games and the Athens Olympics, I shifted to 54 kg where I won gold in Commonwealth Games.
For the Milan World Championship in 2008, I moved to 57 kg but was soon back to 56 for the 2010 Commonwealth Championship and Commonwealth Games. I am comfortable in my current weight category (60kg) as I have won a gold in the All India Police Games.
How different will it be to travel to Incheon with other boxers after a gap of three years?
I have always taken pride in representing my country and it will be the same this time as well. I have been a part of the national camp through these years and have stayed in touch with most of the boys as well. I don’t think there is any reason for me to look at things any differently now. I have given advice to these boys, but only when asked for. Bina maange advice sirf unko deta hoon jo mere close hain (It is only for those who are close to me that I give advice without being asked for). For me this is the start of the journey that I have enjoyed immensely and I plan to continue doing for years to come. No matter what the result I am determined to fight even harder. I will continue till my body allows me to.
What changes have you made in your technique?
I have learnt to become a little more patient, but I have stuck to my aggressive style, which is my trademark. I don’t think I want to ever change that. I will adapt and learn.