The initial struggles after moving up to 51kg quickly told 5-feet tall Sarjubala that chasing more power or bulking up is only part of the puzzle. (Source: File Photo)
While she spent an hour working the mitts, heavy bag and foam sticks, Sarjubala was shadowed by coach Raffaele Bergamasco who mumbled, voiced and bellowed his one commandment for her: “Move your feet.”
The initial struggles after moving up to 51kg quickly told 5-feet tall Sarjubala that chasing more power or bulking up is only part of the puzzle. It took Bergamasco and five-time world champion Mary Kom to intervene and explain that speedy footwork trumps power for the 5-feet tall Sarjubala to rack up performances and jump back into international fray.
“I am a completely different boxer now. I see my old videos and note so many mistakes,” said Sarjubala on Thursday. “All i’m doing now is to prepare to fight taller opponents.”
Five-time world champion Mary Kom knows a thing or two about taking on taller opponents, having won her two Asian Games medals in the 51kg category. So when Mary didi dropped by on Wednesday, she was dogged by the diminutive Manipuri for some recalibrations.
“I asked her to watch my sparring yesterday. She noted that after my 1-2, the third punch comes in slowly. She told me, ‘turant right aana chahiye,’ says Sarjubala. “I realise now that chasing power is important. But technical footwork is the key in close bouts.”
That is what Bergamasco has been trying to teach the Indians since he landed two years ago. Breaking down the situation in a rock-paper-scissors manner, Bergamasco explained the three styles of boxing.
“If opponent is powerful, use your speed. If speedy, use technique. If technical, I want you to fight. But in India, boxers only wanted to fight. That is why we try to have exposure trips in different countries, because they run in to different styles,” said Bergamasco, who added that while the training stint at Sheffield’s English Institute of Sport was helpful for experience, he wasn’t entirely satisfied.
“I wasn’t very happy, because my target is Asian Games. We had good sparring partners for most of the categories except 51 and 57kg. The facilities are the same. But sparring is the key before a big tournament,” said Bergamasco.
With CWG gold medallist Lisa Whiteside not training in Sheffield, Sarjubala had to make do with other partners. But the 25-year-old had another Brit come to her aid. With hands-on-hips and a passable British accent, Sarjubala imitated heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua who walked in during Indian contingent’s training session.
“‘Hey, what exercise are you doing?’ Joshua asked me. I told him that I had hurt my arm the day before so I was doing some stretching. He nodded and started talking to me like we were friends,” said Sarjubala. “India me kaun dhyaan deta hai aise? He has a lot of humanity. I would see him when he would train and realised the hard work that goes in.”
Sarjubala wasn’t the only one watching Joshua train. Sonia Lather, the 57kg contender, would spend her free time closely monitoring the heavyweight and trying to mirror him later. But admittedly, that’s all the 26-year-old from Haryana does anyway.
“I only watch men’s boxing. It started with the Rocky films, then I saw some Muhammad Ali videos. Now, the only boxing footage I watch is men’s because you can see the sharpness, the crisp technique and creativity,” says Lather. “I have picked up so many things watching Haryana boys. I switch to a southpaw stance like Vikas (Krishan) in the fight to confuse my opponents. Sometimes I drop my guard like Akhil (Kumar). Then there are professional boxers like (Vasyl) Lomachenko and Joshua. I don’t follow women boxing. I don’t like to obsessively watch my potential opponents’ or even my own videos. Kuch ladkio waali cheez aa jaati hai usme.”
There’s another reason for Lather to not watch her opponent’s videos.
“I don’t want to give anybody the satisfaction that I’m watching their fights to prepare for them. I don’t want them to be the targets. In fact, I want the rest of the world to look at us, and be afraid that Sonia is coming. The Indians are coming.”
with the Express Morning Briefing