GUWAHATI: The Nationals are an ideal platform for youngsters to prove their mettle. Ankush Dahiya has been using every inch of the ring to make most of this rare opportunity. The lanky 18-year-old from Haryana is as good as they come. A close glimpse at his game will suggest that he is a smooth operator in the ring.
A clinical display on Monday against Railways’ Vikas Malik ensured a final berth (Light 60kg) for Ankush. Up next will be his biggest trial so far. The 2016 Asian Youth silver medallist will be up against local hero Shiva Thapa, who eased into the finals with an emphatic 5-0 win over Pune’s Vijay Kumar.
A look at Shiva’s CV might intimidate any boxer. But Ankush is revelling because of the prospect of going toe-to-toe against an accomplished pro, which might also throw him into the limelight. In fact, he was a popular figure in the changing room on Monday, with fellow boxers walking up to him and commending him after his fight.
“I respect him (Shiva) a great deal. He is a proven boxer and has plenty of experience, but I don’t fear anyone. If I can play my best game, I can definitely beat him,” he told Express.
Like many pugilists from the Haryana belt, Ankush comes from a humble background. His father is into farming while his mother is a homemaker in Bhuapur village (Faridabad District). “All I can say is that my parents are highly encouraging. They trust in my abilities. I’m really lucky to have their support.”
It was his coach Anil Malik who hand-picked Ankush around six years ago in SAI Centre, Sonepat. Malik, who has also mentored Shiva during his junior days, is highly optimistic about his ward’s chances. “He is an intelligent boxer and iron-willed. He is always keen to learn and is a good listener as well,” Malik remarked.
Ahead of key bouts, their strategy is simple. The coach revealed that they sit together, assess the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and then device a plan to counter the same.
“We sit and talk till both of us are satisfied. It is important that he gets a clear plan so that he can execute the same during the bout.”
Given that Malik has worked with Shiva during the latter’s junior days, the coach is well aware of the threats that Ankush faces in the summit clash. “He (Shiva) is a world-class boxer and has plenty of experience. But don’t be surprised if we see an upset.”