Tokyo Olympics 2020: Back in amateur boxing 'game', Vikas Krishan Yadav recalibrating his style to stake claim to 69kg spot

Amit Kamath

In the few months that Vikas Krishan Yadav has been in India, he reckons he has hardly gone home to visit his wife and children. He has unfinished business to tend to before he can turn a family man.

The three-round format of amateur boxing, however, does not allow a pugilist the comfort of taking his time in the ring to measure his opponent. It's an all-out street brawl from the minute you step into the ring. This has led Yadav to recaliberate his boxing style again.

"I'm trying to re-adjust to amateur boxing. This is all I have been doing for the last two-three months. As a professional, I made changes to my technique which is making life slightly difficult for me now in amateur boxing. The boxing style in amateurs is very different as you have just three rounds. If you lose the first round there is a lot of pressure on you to win the second since otherwise there is no chance of you winning the bout. In professionals, you will have between six to 12 rounds. So you can plan your strategy and take your time in the ring. You can actually finish your fight with one hard punch. The knockout percentage in professional boxing is so high since the padding of the gloves is too little."

Given how small the gloves in pro boxing are, they also make it difficult to block your opponent's punches.

"In professional boxing, you will get hit. That's why I realised that the only way to defend was to improve my body movement in the ring. Avoid getting punched. Since I started boxing, I could block very well. In amateur boxing, no boxer could get their punches past my guard. I could block all of their punches. But I really struggled to block the punches from professionals."

"In amateurs, because there is so limited time, boxers usually throw combinations of eight to 10 punches at a time. Then it's very difficult to escape getting hit even with exceptional body movement. That's why I am re-learning how to keep my guard up in amateur boxing. I'd given up on that since turning pro, but now I have to keep my guard up."

"When he returned to India, he seemed to be a little slow for amateur boxing," says Nieva, "It took Yadav some time to get used to the pace of amateur boxing. He did struggle at the start. But he's picked up pace."

The first test of Yadav will be at the South Asian Games in Nepal, where he will be part of a new-look Indian boxing contingent. But arguably, the bigger test will be the boxing trials for the Asian Olympic qualifiers to be held at the end of December.

Having competed at the Rio Olympics in the 75kg weight class, Yadav will go back to the 69kg category, where he used to box at the start of his career.

"The welterweight category in India is very competitive. Either Vikas adapts fast to the demands of that weight class, or there are three-four boxers waiting to take his spot. There's Duryodhan Singh Negi, who went to the World Championships this year. Then there's two-time Olympian Manoj Kumar and Naveen Boora, who is the national champion. Vikas has to prove himself," says Nieva.

The Swedish coach points out that the fact that Yadav has dropped down to the 69kg weight class could work to his advantage.

"He was slightly undersized for the 75kg weight class. But he will be a big, powerful contender in the 69kg. I can see that he's slimmed down now thanks to his pro boxing stint. He can definitely do well in this category," says Nieva.

The road to a medal in Tokyo 2020 is a long, winding one for Yadav. But one that he is determined to traverse.

"In all of our lives, there's always something unfinished. Something incomplete. No one's life is perfect. An athlete who has won an Olympic medal, will start chasing an Olympic gold. An athlete winning Olympic gold, will want more Olympics golds. If I win a medal at the Olympics, I will think then about becoming a world champion in professional boxing."

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