World championship bronze medallist pugilist Shiva Thapa said he is more aggressive in his approach and hungrier for success as he gears up for the India Open boxing tournament beginning on Monday.
The 25-year-old from Assam became the first Indian male boxer to claim four consecutive Asian medals with a 60kg category bronze in last month’s Asian Championship in Bangkok.
He had won a gold in 2013, a bronze in 2015, followed by a silver in 2017 at the same tournament.
“You saw in the last Asian Championships too that I play much more freely now. Even more than that, I can readily impress the judges now. I am being more aggressive now,” the 25-year-old said at the pre-tournament news conference here.
Armed with a record fourth Asian Championship medal, local favourite Thapa will be fighting it out in the 60kg category in the India Open before switching to 63kg keeping in mind the approved weight categories for Tokyo Olympic qualification.
“The more punches I can give, the more chances of winning the rounds I have. This is the style of boxing I have adopted now and our coaches too are helping me with this approach. Santiago Sir is working a lot on my technique and I am building on that,” he said giving credit to India’s chief performance director Santiago Nieva.
The second edition of the India Open kickstarts with 35 men and 37 women boxers from India vying for glory in the competition which will see close to 200 pugilists from 16 boxing powerhouses participating at the Karmabir Nabin Chandra Bordoloi Indoor Stadium.
Thapa is among six Assamese boxers who will vie for the title in front of their home crowd.
Acknowledging the tremendous support at home, Thapa said: “Every boxer is getting ready to give his best. The competition is very strong so we have been training very well for it.
“We all are ready for the tournament and I would want to wish all the best to my team. I hope we will all be an inspiration to all the youngsters here. I wish more and more boxers come out from the northeast region.”
The USD 70,000 prize purse tournament will see London Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom making her competitive debut at home in 51kg after opting out of the Asian Championships last month in order to prepare for the World Championships.
“I have experience in both the categories. It’s not that I am doing anything different for 51kg. The India Open will help me to add to my experience further. Will try to give my best,” the six-time world champion said oozing with optimism.
“We are trying our best to win a medal for our country. We shall be trying our best to do even better and get more medals. Assam boxing Association, BFI, Santiago have all been supporting us.
“This time we shall try our level best and also win medals for the country. I always try my best to make India proud.”
Asian Games champion Mirzakhalilov Mirazizbek, two-time World Championships medallist Jasurbek Latipov of Uzbekistan, Youth Olympic champion Brian Agustin Arregui of Argentina, world champion and reigning Asian Championships, Josie Gabuco of Philippines will ensure that the line-up is competitive.
With four months to go for the World Championships in Russia, which is also an Olympic qualifier, the India Open will serve as the preparatory ground for all the participants.
“The field has some of the best boxers from the world. This will give a chance to show our boxers to the home fans and will help in their preparation for the World Championships in September,” India’s chief performance director Nieva said.