Nitu Ghanghas, 21, vividly remembers his first 20km bus trip from Dhanana village to the Bhiwani Boxing Club to train under trainer Jagdish Singh alongside fellow boxer Sakshi Choudhary and his father. It was an evening in June 2012 and she was finishing her first two-hour training session to be greeted by her father, who was waiting outside the academy.
“Boxing ne mere ko chuna (boxing chose me). My father wanted me to be a boxer as it is the only famous sport in Bhiwani and that’s why he took me to train under the trainer Jagdish sir. We had all heard of how tough a trainer was, Mr. Jagdish. There was also no relaxation for us in the first training session. At that time, like any child, I thought about quitting, but seeing my dad waiting outside made me believe I could do anything,” recalls Nitu, who will be India’s bet for a medal in the women’s 48kg event at the Games. of the Commonwealth of Birmingham. .
While Nitu and Sakshi would begin a strict BBC training routine, which included two and a half hours of training in the morning as well as in the evening in addition to going to school, it would also mean the start of an ordeal. for Jai Bhagwan. Bhagwan, who works as a bill courier at the Haryana Vidhan Sabha in Chandigarh, had to make the decision whether to join his job regularly or accompany his daughter to the daily workout.
Nitu being the eldest of his three children, Bhagwan would first juggle his days between Chandigarh and Bhiwani before deciding to give up his job. “When I first went to the academy I saw over 100 boxers training there. I knew then that I had to be with my daughter to support her training all the time if I wanted to see her win a medal for the country,” he recalled.
Having coached the likes of 2008 Beijing bronze medalist Vijender Singh and many others, Coach Jagdish was known to be a badass. Having also started training girls at the academy, the coach would force Nitu and Sakshi to train with boys as well, apart from sparring sessions with taller boxers.
“As a trainer, we are always looking for boxers who stand out in the crowd. When Nitu came to train, I was impressed with his natural ability to box as a southpaw and that’s what which I wanted her to consider as her strength. At that time, since the suspension of the federation, there was a lack of tournaments. So I made them train with older boys and Nitu had this precision in the forehand, this which made her excel in these training sessions. One thing, which still helps her a lot, is that she is a very introverted boxer. She would win a fight and ask me “Ab kya practices karenge, sir”, said Jagdish.
While Sakshi won medals at the state level once tournaments resumed, Nitu often retired early in state tournaments. It also meant that Jai Bhagwan had to decide to take unpaid leave to spend time with Nitu and constantly cheer him on. A pelvic injury in 2015 made the father-daughter duo spend more than a month seeking treatment at a Delhi hospital and that’s when Bhagwan decided to sell the family’s car and also took out a loan from relatives and friends to support the family. “My husband didn’t tell me initially that he was taking unpaid leave. He was asking family or friends for money to meet household expenses and I found out much later. “The first thing I would say is that my husband became a paagal in his dream to make Nitu achieve something for the country. But it was his paagalpan and Nitu’s willpower that made my daughter win,” shares Nitu’s mother, Mukesh Devi.
A bronze medal at the 2016 Junior National Championships would mean the youngster would be selected for the 2017 Junior World Championship National Camp and the following years would see the youngster become Junior World Champion in Guwahati in 2017 in addition to defending the title in Budapest on the following day. year. The Haryana youngster would also add an Asian youth title to her cat the same year before a shoulder and wrist injury in 2019 caused her to miss the national championships.
With the then government of Haryana delaying the handing over of cash prizes to the World Youth Championships due to an arbitrary change in policy, the family once again had to gamble on their savings. “Being part of the national camp meant my dad didn’t have to worry about my training or my dietary needs. But then he would stay in rented accommodation in Bhopal just to motivate me. When I became world junior champion in Guwahati he was there to see me win and show my medal to the whole village.When the cash rewards were delayed the only thing he told me was not to worry about anything says Nitu.
Having missed out on the chance to compete in the 2020 Nationals due to a shoulder injury, Ritu had to spend time in his village as his name was not included in the senior camp. It also meant that she and Sakshi, another youth world champion, spent a lot of time under Jagdish to train. “It was also a time for her to make the transition from young to senior and staying at home kind of helped her. She relies heavily on her counter punches outside of the uppercut and the right uppercut. As her shoulder recovered, we had her boxing against much stronger and faster boxers and that helped her pick up the pace,” says Jagdish.
Last year, Nitu became national champion in the 48kg category with a victory and this year she won her first senior international medal, a gold medal at the Strandja Memorial Tournament. At the world championships in Turkey, the youngster reached the quarter-finals before a 2-3 loss to A Balkibekova of Kazakhstan, a loss she calls a lesson. “I would call Nitu a boxer with one of the sharpest minds in the ring. She understands ring situations and knows when to take advantage of her being a southpaw and a long distance boxer. If she hadn’t gotten sick a day before the world championship quarter-final fight, she could have won gold in Turkey,” said Bhaskar Chandra Bhatt, Indian women’s head coach.
After the World Championship, Nitu would seal her place for Birmingham with a win over 2019 World Championship silver medalist Manju Rani at the CWG Trials Final in Delhi, which also saw her win the semi-finals via RSCI (referee stops contest due to injury) against Mary Kom, six-time world champion and Olympic bronze medalist in London, as Kom injured his knee in the second round.
With Kom turning 40 in November and ineligible to compete in a tournament, Nitu misses the chance to pick up a win over his idol in a full fight. “My favorite punch is straight cross and I’ve watched videos of mary didi a thousand times mastering that punch. Every time I’m free I see mary didi fight and like any other boxer it was my dream of getting a win against her. Unfortunately, she got injured. Getting her shabhaashi after my win would have been worth any medal in my life,” Nitu says.
For the past two years, Nitu has also supported her younger sister’s education in addition to helping the family with the expenses of her younger brother, an aspiring shooter. Jai Bhagwan, who is now facing a department investigation into his regular absence from work in Chandigarh, calls his daughter the one who runs the house.
“The cash awards covered all of her sister’s fees and expenses for the first year of MBBS in Shimla, in addition to her younger brother’s training expenses. She recently bought him a new gun worth Rs 1.5 lakh. When we ask her what she will get for herself, she tells us that she will get a medal for herself and for the country,” says Bhagwan.
As for Nitu, she knows where to place the medal once she wins it in Birmingham. “In our house in the village, my father hung a punching mat in our living room. My dad shows the punching mat to anyone who comes to our house and that’s where he would put the medal once I win it,” says Nitu.