London Olympics-bound boxer Manoj Kumar’s village Rajhound in Haryana’s Kaithal district is a typical Indian village — only one general hospital, four government schools, two fuel stations and three nationalised banks.
Manoj, the Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist, is well aware of Bhiwani’s transformation after his superstar colleague Vijender Singh won a bronze in the Beijing Olympics.
Manoj too wants to win an Olympic medal for the betterment of his village. “If I win a medal at the Olympics, it will do a lot of good for my village. It will help us get better roads; there will be no frequent power cuts and the villagers will get better medical facilities. There are a lot of hardships that they (villagers) have to face daily,” Manoj told MiD DAY.
Manoj became the first Indian boxer to qualify for the London Games after making it to the quarter-finals in light welterweight (64kgs) category of the World Boxing Championship at Baku in October 2011. “I am not at all nervous,” said Manoj when asked about competing in London.
“In fact, it is a big moment for me. I have waited for all these years only for this day. I am not taking any pressure. I just want to do my best. Every match will be Karo ya maro (win or lose),” said Manoj, who is a ticket collector with Indian Railways.
Manoj is currently undergoing rigorous training at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala. He trains for nearly seven hours a day along with his compatriots. On a piece of paper he has written ‘Olympic gold’ and pasted it on the wall. He has also kept a sandbag inside his room to practise at will.
On the personal front, Manoj is eager to win an Olympic gold for his elder brother Rajesh, a diploma holder in coaching from NIS, Patiala.
“I have never disappointed him. He told me to win a CWG gold, I did. He now wants me to win an Olympic gold. I cannot disappoint him. He is not just my brother, but also my guru. He deserves a Dronacharya award if I win (in the Olympics),” declared Manoj.
His emotions are quite natural. Rajesh has been instrumental in shaping Manoj’s boxing dream. “He has done a lot in my career. It wasn’t feasible to buy a punching bag when I took up the sport. So, he arranged used tyres for practice.
“Since he was not a qualified coach at the time he started teaching me the sport, people would often ridicule him. Bolte the ki yeh pagal hai (they would say my brother is mad). It would hurt me. Now, it is time to give them a strong reply with my performance in the Olympics,” Manoj concluded.
As famous as his namesake
Boxer Manoj Kumar feels winning an Olympic medal in London will make him equally famous as his namesake — Manoj Kumar, India’s famous filmstar of yesteryears. “Whenever I enter my name on the internet, Manoj Kumar the actor comes first.
“I want my name to also figure on the top. And for that, I have to do something special in boxing.
“This (London Games) is the best time to do so. I want the people of India to have two Manoj Kumars to boast of,” he said.