Shiva Thapa was the youngest boxer to have qualified for the London Olympics in 2012. A raw boxer’s maiden Olympic appearance ended in a flash as he was ousted in the first round itself after losing to Mexico’s Oscar Valdez Fierro.
Shiva, now 22, is aiming to bury London ghosts aiming for a podium finish when he enters the ring at Rio Olympics 2016.
Shiva will be representing India in the men’s Bantamweight (56kg) category in Brazil’s carnival city.
When Shiva won a gold in Asian Olympic Qualifiers in 2012, he was often compared with Vijender Singh, the 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medallist .
“When I went to represent my country at the London Games, it was a dream come true for me. This time a lot of hopes are attached to me.. I will not let my country down,” Shiva said.
Shiva will square off against Cuba’s Robeisy Ramirez in the first preliminary round. Ramirez was the flyweight Olympic champion in 2012.
“All I want to say is that I am ready. I know how the pressure is. After London Olympics, I had four years with me and it was tremendous for me. I gained a lot of experience after the London Olympics. I have performed in many tournaments in this period and learnt a lot. World Championship bronze medal has built a lot of confidence in me. The silver medal at the Asian qualifiers also gave me a lot of boost,” a confident Shiva said.
Interestingly, Ramirez and Shiva had faced each other before too. They both were in the ring during the 2010 Youth Olympics final in which the Cuban emerged winner.
Shiva has been training in Sheffield, where he has undergone rigorous training.
“My coaches, my trainers and my physios have worked a lot on me. They have been with me day and night and watched me closely. World Championship bronze medal has built a lot of confidence in me. The silver medal at the Asian qualifiers also gave me a lot of boost,” the 22-year-old said.
Including Shiva, London Games saw eight Indian boxers (seven men and one woman) representing India, but this time only three men will enter the ring in Rio. Apart from Shiva, Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (75kg) will make for the Indian challenge in the mega-event.
“Obviously, pressure is there. It doesn’t matter whether we are three boxers or 10. The pressure is always there. Boxing is an individual sport and one is responsible for himself. Once you get into the ring, it is you who will be watched by millions and they will judge you on the basis of your performance,” Shiva said.
India has two boxing medals in Olympics so far. The first came through Vijender Singh (75kg) in Beijing Games in 2008 and the other won by M C Mary Kom (51kg) in the 2012 London Olympics.
Shiva took up to boxing when he was 11. His first interest was football but watching boxing legend Mike Tyson on television pushed him towards boxing.
“I used to play football when I was a kid. I played till I turned 9. Boxing came in my life when I was 11. I always wanted to play an individual sport. Boxing was something that I watched on television. I didn’t know about the sport but it used to excite me a lot. I used to hear a lot about Mike Tyson. I was curious to know who the guy is. I used to watch his videos and started learning from it,” Shiva said.
“Winning a medal in the Nationals in 2005 was the beginning for me in the sport. I kept learning and didn’t look back,” he said.
Shiva gives all the credit to his father Padam Thapa, who was also a national level boxer and under his guidance the Rio-bound boxer has learnt the nuances of being a good boxer.
“In India we see most parents pushing their children into studies. My father was a boxer and sport is in my blood. When he saw my interest in sports, he started giving me training. I started training under him as a kid,” a proud son said.
With his senior and Olympic bronze medallist Vijender turning professional now, Shiva too would want to follow suit in future.
“Yes, I will definitely want to try my hand in pro boxing. For now, my focus is on the Olympics,” the young boxer said.