Tribune News Service
New Delhi, April 3
Unknowingly, Mike Tyson is fuelling dreams in India. Tyson was sent to Tryon School for Boys in New York after getting arrested for snatching a purse in 1978. Bobby Stewart, who discovered Tyson, first trained him and then asked legendary coach Cus D’Amato to take him under his wings.
Four decades later, a similar story is being scripted in India. Over 20 juveniles from Sewa Kutir of Guru Tegh Bahadur Nagar here — including those incarcerated for murder — are being given the hope of making a career in boxing and shunning a life of crime, like Tyson.
The experiment is the first of its kind in India and has the potential to revolutionise the rehabilitation of underage convicts. And early results are encouraging.
In collaboration with the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) and Delhi Commission for Protection of Child Rights (DCPCR), former boxer Amjad Khan is sending coaches and trainers to train the boys thrice a week.
“I had read that Tyson was in a juvenile home and from there he became one of the greats in boxing,” Khan said. “His story formed the basis for this project. We need to give them second chances. It took me two years to get the required clearance for this training centre.”
Over 60 boys signed up for the programme, which was launched eight months ago. But the rigours of training were too much for many. After running seven rounds early in the morning, the boys work on their left-right combination punches with emphasis on stance. Not an issue for those who stayed with the programme. They simply love the drill.
The majority of the boys said they would continue training with Khan at his training centre in Malviya Nagar after they have served their time.
“I am here because of my crime and I don’t want to return to this life ever again. Boxing will get me somewhere in life once I am out,” said under-18 ‘S’, who has been under observation at this centre since 2017 on an attempt to murder charge.
Another juvenile, ‘M’, in detention on a double murder charge, said he is hooked to the boxing gloves. “Ab to angootha bhi tudwa liya, ab nahi chootega (Not going to leave the sport now, now that I have already broken a thumb during practice),” he said.
“I was in a bad company and I got addicted to drugs and I got sucked into a life of crime. I have seen Amjad bhai’s videos and I want to fight too. I dream that I get to fight in bouts but it won’t be easy,” he added.
Giving up crime
The story of ‘L’, who has turned 18, is a little different. He was released on bail in 2015 but got entangled in another murder along with his best friend. “Don’t know when I will get out. I have to suffer the consequences of my actions. I know what I have done and I am not proud of it,” he said. “But one thing I will promise is that when I get out I will be with Amjad bhai. If you don’t trust me, let me give you the contact details of my parents.”
As per the rules, the coaches, including Chandan Singh, bring all the requisite gear such as gloves and punch mitts with them when they walk in to the centre and take all of it with them after training. So the boys are starting to make their own equipment to work on their physical strength. A 15kg sack of mud has replicated dumbbells. On a good day they do 500 pushups.
But not all the trainees will be seen around a boxing ring once out. ‘A’, who has won a medal in the junior National Wrestling Championships, will return to his akhada in Nangal Thakran, Delhi.
“I was caught for extortion. I just went with friends, there was no fight or anything. All I was told that someone owed one of our acquaintances some money. But police caught me because they had CCTV footage,” ‘A’, who has been in the centre for a month now, said. “I will return to wrestling. I am training with the boxing coach to stay fit as it is the only thing that can keep you fit in the inside.”
In later years, Tyson returned to do jail time on assault, battery and rape charges. This return to crime is something Khan and his staff won’t want these kids to replicate. “I have not promised anything big. The thing we will do is to get in touch once they are out so that they can come to my other centre and train regularly. After that it is up to them,” Khan said.
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