CHENNAI: Last December, CA Kuttappa had suffered several sleepless nights. He’d taken over as chief national coach of the men’s boxing team. With this notable opportunity, his mind was unwilling to switch off, fleshing out several plans to inspire the boxers. He didn’t mind the restlessness, as he was aware of the demands of his new role.
“I was thinking, ‘What should I do?’. Apart from looking after the boxers, I also had to do paperwork sometimes; making documents and all,” he recalls. Three months, four testing meets and countless training sessions later, Kuttappa has gained a fair idea of what is required in the next few months, all of which will be vital for the 2020 Olympics.
He has made few tweaks; little details that may produce big changes, ones that may start reflecting during the Asian Championship — Kuttappa’s first major assignment — in Bangkok next month. One who strongly believes in teamwork, the Mysuru man has been trying to bring the coaches and boxers together and make them work in sync.
Sparring sessions, he says, is where this is a must. “Sparring is virtually like a real fight. There’s so much one can analyse; find out strengths and weaknesses. So I ensure that the coaches are there to see the progress, take notes, and help them improve. The coaches tell them what to do and what not to do. How the boxers react in an instant manner to these instructions can prove vital during big competitions,” explains the Dronacharya awardee.
“Every week, we have a meeting. We discuss who’s doing well and who’s lagging behind.” Kuttappa, who has had a hand in Vijender Singh’s success, is not new to his current environment. He has seen several boxers sweat it out and make sacrifices to punch their way to success. But at the same time, he has also observed several of them slacking off during training.
That’s what Kuttappa wants to put an end to. “There have been cases where boxers have been lackadaisical in training. They just enter the trials to get into the national team. What about the rest who have trained diligently? I’m trying to inculcate discipline,” elaborates the AIBA 2 star coach.
“When it comes to training, no one can take a half-hearted approach. We have attendance for every session. Those who miss out and make flimsy excuses will not be considered for trials. As the chief coach, I need honest fighters who are willing to give their 100 per cent for the country.”
Kuttappa says there’s abundant talent, but that can only help boxers reach so far. The trait that he wants his wards to imbibe is fearlessness. “Most of our boxers are technically gifted. They are tactically strong too. But they need to become more rugged, which I believe is a must in a physical sport. They can take a leaf out of the Europeans’ books. They are fighters, and they are always eager to improve.”
The 39-year-old is happy with the balance of the 10-member team that has been picked for Asian Championship. The team includes three-time medal winner Shiva Thapa and Asian Games gold medallist Amit Panghal. Most of the selected bunch had won medals in recent international meets, and had also topped the trials.
Unsurprisingly, Kuttappa’s sleeplessness hasn’t really gone away. “I had the habit of taking an hour-long nap in the afternoon. Ever since I got promoted, I have not managed to get the same.”
One boxer who has really caught Kuttappa’s eye is Naman Tanwar. The youngster won bronze in last year’s Commonwealth Games (91kg). “I have not seen a talent like him in 91 kg at the national camp. He is a confident boy and a hard puncher.”