Thakur College throws a punch
How has a Kandivli college better known for science and commerce courses, ruled Mumbai University in boxing for seven years? For starters, it's investing time, money and hope in its middle-class students.
It's been three weeks since he won the match that ended with him bagging a gold medal at an Inter-University boxing competition in Baghpat district of Uttar Pradesh, but 21-year-old Shashikant Yadav, remembers the details with vivid clarity. "I had seen Akshay's [his opponent's] earlier fights. I was confident to knock him down in all three rounds of the bouts in the final match," he says. Describing his match strategy, Shashi says, "I had been stepping back after every punch in each round, which lasts for three minutes."
Shashi, a third-year BCom student from Kandivli's Thakur College of Science and Commerce, is a native of UP's Jaunpur district and lives with his uncle Shivadhar in Jogeshwari. His father Ramadhaar Yadav, a fruit-seller, left Mumbai after facing chronic heart disease. Shashi, who is on scholarship at the college says, it was a poor academic record that made his uncle push him towards sports. "I chose boxing when I was in Class 6, after watching my seniors make a good name for themselves in this field and securing central government jobs." He participated at state-level boxing competitions while still in Class 8.
Shashi flanked by the college sports director MK Ali Rizvi (left) and coach Abhishek Yadav, aka Bacchi
In Mumbai, Shashi's day begins early and involves a six-hour practice routine—6.30 am to 9.30 am and 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm. The hard work has paid off, says coach Abhishek Yadav, who the students fondly call Bacchi. And his parents want him to strive for other gold medals. "Now, I want him to play in the Olympics, represent India and bag awards," says Ramadhaar.
Shashikant Yadav, who recently won a gold at an Inter-University match in Uttar Pradesh, at a practise session at Kandivli’s Thakur College of Science and Commerce
Thakur College has been making an investment in India's budding sportspersons with an annual budget of R40 lakh to promote sports. "The campus is large and we have been encouraging our students to stay fit. In return, they have made us proud by bagging awards on different platforms," says principal Chaitraly Chakraborty.
The college sports director MK Ali Rizvi shares that over 500 students are currently participating in a variety of sports for the college teams. And, while medals are coming in from all sides, it's boxing that has brought the college special honour. "Our boxers have been doing exceedingly well, and most have got central government jobs under the sports quota." Chakraborty adds. That the college has been in the top 5 of Mumbai University's boxing charts for the last six years says it all. "It's the seventh consecutive year that the boys have maintained top rank in boxing in Mumbai University. The girls have been performing equally well and have thrice been on the top in last seven years."
Sejal Kurmi, a student, at practise
Bacchi, 25, is a former student of the college, having graduated in 2015. A boxer himself, he returned to coach the students in August 2015. It was his way of giving back to juniors and his alma mater. Today, he coaches both male and female students, training them for all the competitions. Such is the success of the college in boxing that, Rizvi says, it's also investing Rs 5 lakh to make a ring inside the gymnasium, so that students can witness live competitions and professional bouts. "This will offer them a true feel of a boxing competition, right within their college," he adds.
Former student Dilip Yadav, who now works as a ticket collector in the Indian Railways, bagged multiple medals while representing Mumbai University between 2014 and 2016. He landed the railways job while still in college. "I have played the All India Inter University championship at the Banaras Hindu University in 2014 and at Kurukshetra University in 2016. I bagged the bronze and silver medals while representing Mumbai," he says over the phone from Secunderabad.
The college hopes that the other budding boxers on scholarship—Raju Yadav, Akash Tambe, Raju Kanaujia, Gaurav Shelar—will follow in Shashi's footsteps. "He is a humble sportsman, who rarely gives up in the ring. He is the best boxer currently in Mumbai University. We have been thinking of providing him a better diet so that he can train more. This may also encourage others," adds Rizvi. Bacchi doesn't hold himself back, while praising his star student. "He has made us proud time and again; this time in Baghpat. No one can beat him in Mumbai University. Shashi is our star."
Pic/ Hanif Patel
Kirti Vijay Bhoite, 19, a BCom student on scholarship at Thakur College, has bagged more than 250 medals at the district, state and national level since the age of six. Now, she is eyeing the Olympics.
Recently, Bhoite struck gold at the 80th All India Inter-University Championship, representing Mumbai in the 200-metre sprint, at Moodbidri in Mangaluru. It was the University’s first gold in the category in 27 years. Bhoite, who returned to Mumbai, immediately flew to Guwahati to represent Maharashtra at the Khelo India Youth Games 2020 and bagged four medals including one gold and three bronze. Being a student at Thakur works for sportspersons, she says, because of the support they receive for practice that sometimes keeps them away from campus, let alone classes. “At present I am training for the Asian Junior Athletic Championship scheduled for May in Bangkok,” said Bhoite, whose twin brother Prathamesh, studying BCom at Thakur College, is a football player.
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