Its just a week to go before the start of the AIBA world qualifying tournament in Baku, Azerbeijan. For most, Baku will be the final chance to qualify for the Rio Games so — with only one Indian in bantamweight Shiva Thapa having qualified for the Olympics so far — the boxers at the national camp in Patiala train with urgency.
Middleweight boxer Vikas Krishan isn’t in Patiala however. One of only three Indians to have won a medal at the world championships, Krishan has his sights set on a more immediate contest. Which is why Vikas is currently resting at his home in Bhiwani, ahead of competing in India’s first ever AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) fight night on June 11.
The Asian Games gold medalist has good reason to compete in the APB event. It opens up for him, the possibility of qualifying for the Olympics through yet another route. He has already competed in a previous APB contest — in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. By competing in his second APB bout, Vikas will become eligible to participate in the final Olympic Qualifiers in Venezuela in July — in which boxers from the APB, WSB (World series of boxing) as well as professional fighters will compete.
While Vikas is looking to use the APB route to qualify for the Olympics, he knows there is little the two formats have in common. “This might not have a direct impact to how I perform in amateur competition. The bout will be six rounds instead of just three and the gloves we use are smaller. But it prepares me for taking heavy hits and it is also a good way to get experience if I turn professional,” he says.
Indeed while his predecessor in the 75kg category Vijender Singh may have made the switch to the professional ranks last year, the 24-year-old says he too is seriously considering making the career switch at some point in the future.
“Abhi to confirm nahi hai but chances are that I will turn professional,” he says. Krishan says that if he does make the shift, it will not happen until after the Olympics. “Jo hoga, Olympics ke baad hi hoga. After the Olympics I will see whether I will join professional boxing or not but I am interested and I’m thinking about it,” says the boxer currently ranked sixth in the AIBA world middleweight rankings.
Vikas goes on to add that if he does qualify for the Rio Games, they may well be his final Olympics. “If I keep going on as usual, age nikal jayeghi. Ye mera last Olympics ho sakta hai,” he says. Even the possibility of winning a medal might not keep him interested anymore. “Medal nahi mile to bhi khel sakte hai but char saal mein pata nahi kya ho jaye. Injury ho jaye. Naye ladke aa jayenge. (Even if I don’t win a medal I might continue playing but in four years anything can happen. I could be injured or new boxers might come up,” he says.
As it stands however, Vikas’ bout against Kenya’s Nickson Abaka, who qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics — in a Noida mall will be a one off event. Even so it will not be risk free. A cut sustained during the bout might rule him medically unfit for the Baku event. Vikas though is willing to gamble. “Of course I could get hurt in the ring but you can get hurt in sparring as well. Unless you take risks there is little chance of a reward,” he says.