- Sagar faced England’s Orie Delicious in the men’s 92kg CWG final to clinch a silver medal for India.
- Coach Deshwal trained Sagar with an emphasis on weight and explosive power to assist Sagar in developing his hand strength and reflexes.
- He believes that Sagar would eventually dispel the misconception that India is underweight.
It all began with a news article.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao engaged in what has come to be known as the “Fight of the Century” on May 2, 2015. A teenage kid in Dhandlan, Jhajjar, who was far from the incident, read a newspaper account of the altercation and became immediately captivated.
After losing to England’s Orie Delicious in a close final seven years prior, Sagar Ahlawat found himself on the podium at the Commonwealth Games on Sunday, taking a silver medal.
Even if it had a fairytale start, Sagar’s interest in the sport didn’t develop until he had graduated from high school. Rajesh, his farmer’s father, felt his responsibility was to support his son’s desire to pursue this ambition.
He trained three times a day according to an unusual schedule. He would box and run in the mornings and the evenings. He would run near the canal for around 10-15 kilometres while everyone else slept in the oppressive afternoon heat. He would wear a tyre around his waist.
Everything involved a focused effort. Sagar required assistance catching up to the competition because he developed an interest in the sport considerably later than most of his contemporaries. The CWG 2022 silver medalist in super heavyweight would require another super heavyweight to transport him there. So, in 2018, Rajesh Ahlawat brought his kid to the Maharishi Dayanand Stadium in Jhajjhar to meet with Hitesh Deshwal, a former boxer turned coach.
Sagar has been under Deshwal’s supervision, who told him that excelling in the sport would necessitate adhering to a strict regimen. The coach recognised early indications of a talented prospect.
Within a year of their initial meeting, Deshwal had Sagar put on weight and move to the 90kg category as his height increased to 6’11”. The increase to +92kg wouldn’t take much time either. However, the lack of Indian boxers in that weight class meant that Sagar had fewer opponents to practise with and fight. His trainer, a former boxer in the same division, used a desi jugaad.
Describing Sagar, he said that the 23-year-old could withstand a lot of punishment. I would force him to compete for 6 to 8 rounds. His willpower and stamina were strengthened as a result. Every game for as many as eight rounds might occasionally pit him against a different boxer.
Greco-Roman wrestling was incorporated in the Super Heavyweight training schedule designed by coach Deshwal with an emphasis on weight and explosive power to assist Sagar in developing his hand strength and reflexes.
Because of this, Sagar was prepared to play in the big leagues or, in his coach’s words, “leave everyone surprised” when he was ultimately called up to the India camp.
The 20-year-old overcame Satish Kumar, the first Indian Super Heavyweight boxer to compete at the Olympics, and national champion Narender in the over-92kg trials for the Birmingham Games in 2022.
While it may have seemed unexpected to see a boxer who had never competed in an international competition defeat Satish by unanimous decision, Sagar’s three straight victories over opponents on his road to the CWG final showed that he was built for the big fights. And his first coach thinks the Jhajjar lad has what it takes to win India medals in a division where they haven’t had much success.
Paramjit Samota defeated a taller opponent in the heavyweight division in the 2010 Commonwealth Games to win the title. Coach Deshwal saw that fight firsthand and used it to demonstrate to Sagar how Samota used determination to defeat a stronger opponent. He believes that Sagar would eventually dispel the misconception that India is underweight.
According to Rajesh, the number of people watching the family watch their son’s box at the Commonwealth Games hasn’t increased much from the initial 100. One guy, however, has not attended any of his matches with them, not even the championship match.