When light flyweight boxer Sachin Siwach was learning the ropes at a local boxing academy, his father Krishan, a small-time farmer, was worried about how he was going to afford fresh milk — an essential part of the diet the coach had prescribed.
The wheat the family produced at Mitathal village, roughly 15km from Bhiwani, was just enough to make both ends meet. But with a little ingenuity and a stroke of luck, Krishan found a cow that had wandered into the village. When nobody came to claim the animal, Krishan took it home. From that day onwards his younger son got the nutrition he required.
Sachin won India’s first youth world championship gold since 2010 when he beat Cuba’s Jorge Grinan at St. Petersburg. And the story about how he got to drink fresh milk everyday, though the family of four struggled to put two square meals on the table, is also one about the fight against the odds.
Krishan was determined to make his son a boxer — just like his brother Vijender, who was a junior India international as well.
So even before he turned 10, Sachin, was admitted to Sanjay Sheoran’s academy. “The coach told me that fresh cow milk would be an essential part of his diet along with almonds, chickpeas, fruits, churma, etc,” Krishan says. “I knew I could somehow manage almonds, but I could not afford a cow.”
It was a year later that Krishan spotted the stray cow. “I got her tested by a proper doctor, who declared it was safe to consume her milk,” Krishan says. “So I now have a desi cow and a buffalo, which I got around five years ago similarly.”
Krishan says the cattle is primarily used for his son’s diet. But he sells rest of the milk and the money earned from is utilized in maintaining them and to meet Sachin’s other needs. “Khana-peena humne karwaya. Coach ne mehnat karwai. Baaki gau maata hai (We took care of his diet, coach focused on his training. For the rest, we have a cow),” he says.
Sachin, now 17, joined Sheoran’s academy eight years ago. This was the time when Bhiwani had shot into limelight as the country’s boxing hub following Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar’s exploits at the Beijing Olympics. The Bhiwani Boxing Club (BBC) was the epicentre.
Unlike hundreds of kids who joined the BBC during that wave, Krishan decided to enrol his son at Sheoran’s club. While the BBC boasts of a couple of proper boxing rings, gym and other such facilities, Sheoran’s academy is just a small piece of dusty, pebble-laden land with dry, wild grass.
“Char jhande mitti mein ghaad diye hai. Bas wahi hai hamari ring,” Sheoran says. The academy was started by Sheoran’s father Hawasingh, a Dronacharya award-winning boxing coach. Hawasingh coached Krishan’s brother, and Sachin’s uncle, Vijender. So to keep the tradition alive, Sheoran’s club was chosen over BBC.
Sheoran says there aren’t many kids training at his centre, which gave him the chance to focus on Sachin entirely. It was only after a year after he started boxing that Sachin stepped into an actual boxing ring. But months of training in the makeshift facility had made his legs stronger and movement faster. It was a factor that was visible in the way he punched his way to gold in St Petersburg, Russia.
Orthodox in his style, Sachin was more of a counter-puncher. At the junior national camp, he was moulded into a much more attacking boxer. That, combined with his quick feet, make him a thrill to watch.
“His side movement is good. After landing a punch, he is quick to move sideways to avoid getting counter-punched. And at 5’6”, he is taller than most of the boxers in his weight category. So he uses that to his advantage, by maintaining distance from his opponents,” says Girish Pawar, a member of India’s coaching staff at the youth worlds.
Sachin is only the third Indian after Nanao Singh (2008) and Vikas Krishan (2010) to win a youth world championship gold.
At the same venue last year, Sachin had won the junior world championship bronze medal. “So I was pretty confident going into the youth worlds. Everyday, I used to make a call back to Mitathal and strategise for the next bout with coach. It’s his hard work that has paid off,” Sachin says.