The cavernous underbelly of the imposing Emirates Arena near the centre of Glasgow, turned into a massive practice area for boxers reverberates with the sound of punching bags being pummeled and the fighters being willed on. Watching the frenzied activity is a slight girl with a long plait of black hair, intently peering over the ropes, standing on tiptoes observing the action.
She moves from ring to ring, minutely observing the way the boxers inside are moving, the combinations they are using and the varied stances they adopt when defending themselves. After almost half an hour of observation, 24-year-old Pinki Jangra returns to the practice area marked out for India.
She then spends the next ten minutes discussing all that she has seen with Hemlata, the coach for the Indian women’s boxing team here at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
An hour before though, the heaving and jousting boxing arena had ground to a screeching halt. Prince Charles and his wife, the Duchess of Cornwall had just made an appearance.
As the royal entourage wound its way through the punching bags, the Prince stopped at the Indian enclosure, watching Jangra and Pooja Rani slug it out.
While the Prince watched the punches flying thick and fast, the Scottish women’s team coach, present by Charles’ side conceded that the Indian boxers stood a good chance of claiming a medal.
Their brief dalliance with royalty now over, Jangra is back to her observing best. “It is something that Mary didi has told me to do. Before I left, Mary didi spoke to me a lot. She gave me a lot of tips, but most importantly she told me to observe all the other boxers. Getting an idea of what you will be facing was very important according to Mary didi,” says Jangra, ranked 11th in the world in the 48 kg category.
Perhaps in what some might perceive a worrying sign, Jangra has fallen nine places in the rankings since June, having earlier been placed at second spot in the world.
Haryana’s Jangra pipped MC Mary Kom to the lone spot in the 51 kg women’s boxing event, an event debuting at this month’s games.
Having won a close bout back in May at Patiala, Jangra says the win has given her renewed belief.
“I have managed to beat an Olympic bronze medallist. I am very confident right now. I know I will be up against tough challengers, especially from Britain and Northern Ireland, but I am confident that my intensive training and hard-work will give me results here,” she says. A week before she boarded her flight to Glasgow, Jangra made it a ritual to spend an hour each day with Mary Kom.
The two boxers discussed tactics, openings but the most important lesson according to the 24-year-old, was how to handle herself mentally at such an international competition.
“Mary didi spoke a lot about mental strength and about not getting distracted. Seeing the line-up in my category, I am easily the shortest of the lot, but Mary didi said that she has faith in my abilities and being the smallest has its advantages as well,” the 24-year-old added.
A very aggressive boxer by her own admission, Jangra says that she wants to surprise opponents.
“I might just take the first 10 seconds of the bout to assess what my opponent is trying to do. After that, I am just going to go for it. I am an aggressive boxer and there is no point in changing your style just because you are at a big event,” she says.
With London Olympics gold medallist Nicole Adams competing at the games, Jangra knows the journey ahead of her is arduous. She lists a couple of Welsh and North Irish boxers also as strong competitors, terming their physical superiority as the main difference.
However, the 24-year-old is sparring with CA Kutappa, one of the coaches in the men’s team, a measure which she says will allow her to prepare for the upcoming physically imposing bouts.
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