My daily regimen begins in the morning with a workout at the gymnasium after which I either do multiple sprints of 200 meters, or a seven-to-eight-km jog. The evening workout, which involves gloves practice, lasts for about two hours. Upper body strength is crucial for punching, and the exercises I do include bench press, front press, crunches…  I also do some yoga to relax. I am currently training at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune, and here we do actual sparring for two days a week.

Art of war
A boxer needs to understand his body well. I am not the strongest boxer around; my strength is my speed, my reflexes — I have one of the fastest reaction times among Indian boxers. I am a counter-puncher, I lure my opponent to hit me before delivering a few knocks. I used this strategy successfully when beating NikolajsGrisunins of Milano Thunder in the World Series of Boxing match in Pune last month.

Food and indulgences
I take protein supplements (whey protein) twice a day. Breakfast is fruits, milk, corn flakes, and chickpeas. Lunch is usually rice with dal, paneer, salad… I am a vegetarian. I hardly eat out, not more than twice a month. I love jalebi and gulabjamun and frankly, I eat them indiscriminately. I avoid rice for dinner and make it a point to eat at least three hours before going to sleep.

A boxer is prone to weight gain, especially when he is injured. In 2007, 10 days before an event, I found that I was over the weight limit by 8 kg for my category (Light heavyweight). But I managed to lose those kilos in 10 days. I became a fruitarian, and even cut down on water. I wore sweat suits and ran during the afternoons, about 10 km every day. The life of a boxer is full of sacrifices.

Down but not out
What injures me also makes me stronger. I had a nose fracture and right-hand injury a few years ago, and it took me two months to recover. I couldn’t even so much as lift my right hand. I used this as an opportunity to strengthen my left hand and did a lot of shadow boxing, training with punching pads… Plus, last year I missed the Commonwealth Games due to a swelling in my lower abdomen. I couldn’t box or jog, as the lower abdomen is involved in both of these. I used this time for bolstering my upper body strength by doing a lot of weight training.

Blow-by-blow account
My defence is very strong so I have never been knocked out in my career. But a boxer always gets hard punches, and I remember the one that I got in the All India Railways competition in 2009. I was hit on the right chin — the chin is the most vulnerable spot — and my head was spinning till the next day. My friends carried me home or so they tell me… Whenever I think I am getting complacent, I remind myself of that punch.

The psyche
A clear mind is necessary for a pugilist. My parents were not supportive when it came to boxing and so I ran away from home when I was in my teens and trained in wrestling with my cousin Ravi Kumar before taking up boxing. I firmly believe that you can take inspiration from anywhere. Recently, I read HarivanshraiBachchan’s poem ‘Koshishkarnewalokihaarnahinhoti’ thanks to my friend and fellow Mumbai Fighters’ boxer Akhil Kumar, and found it quite motivating.