Forged in the ring
THE WEEK|August 01, 2021
INDIA’S LARGEST BOXING CONTINGENT, TOUGHENED BY THE JOURNEY, IS LOOKING TO MAKE HISTORY
REUBEN JOE JOSEPH

The Ryogoku Kokugikan in Tokyo is the spiritual home of sumo wrestling, the national sport of the 2020 Olympics host country. It has hosted every legendary national sumo fight since it was rebuilt in 1985. Few stadia in Japan are as iconic as the kokugikan (translates to ‘stadium of national sport’), despite its capacity of just 11,000 people.

At the 2020 Olympics, boxing is the only sport that will be hosted at the kokugikan. But the significance of the arena might be lost on the pugilists. Vijender Singh, India’s first Olympic boxing medallist, told THE WEEK that he does not care for venues. “I never remember the city name, place name…. It’s all about boxing. Go into the ring, beat that guy, come out with the medal,” he said.

Perhaps it sums up a boxer’s mentality. A single-minded focus to win that shuts off everything else around them. In that moment, everything outside the 6.1sqm ring fades to black. Andre Agassi in his book, Open, said that only boxers could understand the loneliness that tennis players experience on the court. For that 11-minute-long bout, they undergo a lifetime of training and struggle. And struggle really is the thread that runs through the current Indian contingent.

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