From now on till the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, Vikas Krishan will have to show the skills to traverse two very different territories of professional and amateur boxing. The delay in the Games prompted Krishan to move back to professional boxing and honour his commitment with promoters Top Rank.
The 28-year-old has started his training in isolation at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Vijayanagar. Krishan took the professional route in 2018, but was back for the Tokyo Olympics qualifier this year and made the cut. The desire to win a medal in what will be his third Olympics brought him back to the amateur fold.
However, with the Olympics postponed and no tournaments scheduled, Krishan feels the best way to get some competition is to go back to the professional arena. The only challenge facing Krishan is the shortage of time in shifting gear to amateur boxing before the Olympics.
The demands of the two streams of boxing are very different—pro-boxing is akin to a marathon, while the amateur style is almost like a sprint. Krishan’s coach at IIS, Ronald Simms of the US, however, believes it won’t be difficult.
“It will depend on his mentality. Ninety-nine per cent of the boxers I have seen turning champions in the professional arena are those who box the exact same way in amateur. There is no change,” says Simms.
“He has just started training and will gradually go into more strenuous physical and technical training. We have decided how we need to approach this period, where we need to focus and improve. We are going to assess his professional bouts closely and address it from the point of amateur bouts and make the corrections. He is at a low level in professional boxing at the moment. He is not fighting the elite level of professional boxers.”
Simms feels Krishan is in good space as far as the Olympics is concerned.
“Most Olympics medallists in boxing are not first-timers. Most of them who win gold medals also end up turning professional. He has already turned professional and we will see that he is right on track to compete with the best of amateur boxers and come out on top.”
Krishan had played two professional bouts last year and was comfortable switching back to amateur boxing.
Transition not a problem: Nieva
“It will be good to have some bouts in professional boxing and then come back to amateur. He will benefit. The transition for him will not be a problem; he showed that in the qualification. He will not forget 15-20 years of Olympic boxing,” says high-performance director Santiago Nieva.
“He has good skills, power and tremendous experience and that makes him a strong candidate for an Olympic medal in Tokyo.”
When Krishan returned to amateur ranks last year, he adjusted quickly and even topped the domestic trials. His switch from middleweight (75kg) to welter (69kg) also worked in his favour. At the Olympic qualifier in Jordan in March, Krishan upset second seed Ablaikhan Zhussupov of Kazakhstan, a two-time world bronze medallist, in the semi-finals to book a Tokyo Olympics berth.
“In 69kg, he is a much stronger candidate because that is his natural weight. It took him around one or two months to make the adjustments on return. He was a bit slow when he came back. He quickly adjusted to the rhythm and speed and came back to his level,” says Nieva.
Fighting several rounds at the pro level made Krishan tougher, increased power in his punches and tightened his defence. It gave him the confidence to compete against any opponent.
“The aim is to win a gold medal at the Olympics and I am prepared to take any route for that,” says Krishan. “We always think before fighting boxers from the USA, Kazakhstan, Russia and Cuba. Professional boxing has prepared me to the level that I can fight any opponent without any fear or doubts in my mind. I have fought in Madison Square Garden in front of a full house and such experiences have made me tough. It has taught me to deal with pressure.”
The task for Krishan, for now, is to shed some weight. He currently weighs 79kg. “I have to lose around 4-5 kgs first. I am running and doing basic fitness. Once my body is ready, I will do weight training and technical training. The lockdown period was tough… after a month I was frustrated. There was a goal in front of me and I was not able to train and prepare for the Olympics,” said Krishan.