A boxer like Venkatesan Devarajan is extremely hard to find. His personality and way of conduct is amazing and that’s one of the main reasons people love him a lot.
An amazing career as a player, a coach of many young boxers and an adviser to actors like R Madhavan, Devarajan has many things to share with SportsBeatsIndia.
How does it feel to be the first Indian Boxer to win a World Cup Medal on Foreign Soil?
Boxing during my time was not so popular. Nowadays, India sends a full team with 3 coaches for the World Cup. That time India only used to send a maximum of 3 players. Winning a medal in those circumstances was like a lifetime achievement. It felt so good to represent India to win a medal. I got a lot of appreciation from my fellow boxers and my friends that I have done the impossible.
How did you start your boxing journey and what inspired you the most?
Representing India at that time was a great thing. I wanted to represent India and this thought was fixed in my mind. Talking about boxing, there was not even a single national champion in Tamil Nadu. So I took this fact seriously and decided to take up boxing.
My father introduced me to boxing. My 2 younger brothers, V Bhaskaran and Hari Krishnan were National Champions and also International Players
At the age of 17, I was the national champion and I won many medals at the national level.
I had started boxing at the age of 12. Getting into the national camp was my aim and after winning a national championship, I got into the national camp.
At the age of 18, I had qualified for the Olympics. I celebrated my 19th birthday at the Barcelona Olympics. Sports was not given so much importance that time, so doing something different also kept me motivated.
What was the turning point of your career?
The qualification round where I defeated top ranked boxers from Mongolia, Indonesia and Cuba proved to be extremely important. Those match wins made me extremely confident and it somehow paved my way to success.
At that time Indian Amateur Boxing Federation Ex – President S.P Adjaniya and the secretory at that time Gangopadhyay Sir supported and encouraged me a lot.
Let me tell you that my World Cup was not sponsored by the government. Gulf Oil made the financial arrangements for me and government just approved it.
There was no support for me at that time by the government but even in these kinds of circumstances, I could win a medal at the World Cup.
There are many such tournaments which have some or the other memories attached with it. I have played in many tournaments and have faced many great players, so all my tournaments are special for me.
It is said that your movement in the ring was something different. You made the ring look like you are going to rule there. So how will you describe your playing style?
The main thing I kept in my mind was that I don’t want to take a punch but I want to score a clean punch. I should dodge the opponents’ punch and then do my moves accordingly. People used to say that my movement was good and I am swift.
Mohammed Ali was the one I used to adore a lot. I used to learn a lot of tricks by watching his videos. I used to try to copy Mohammed Ali while training. His footwork was amazing and he used to keep the opponent away from his body and that’s what I try to do.
He was the greatest source of inspiration for me. I think I have adapted 10-15% of his playing style into mine.
Your state has some special affection towards you. So how did you build this connection with the people?
Not just Tamil Nadu, but I received a lot of love from all over the country. The lovers of the game tend to love me. I used to receive letters from Patiala and even Jaipur.
I behave well with each and every one. So people tend to connect with me. My opponents in the National as well as the International Games are my friends and I share a great bond with them.
I follow many other games than boxing; so many players from various games tend to contact me. I praise their game and the players also talk to me with a lot of affection.
You also coach the young children and that too free of cost? What is your motive behind that?
You know, many young children and their parents used to come to me and ask me what the fees I would charge to coach them were.
When I used to train under my coach, he didn’t charge me anything. So with that thought I decided not to charge them anything. Children want to learn and that’s the important thing. If I start charging them, the children who are willing to learn boxing, even those people won’t turn up.
They want to learn and that matters to me the most. The rate of children choosing boxing now-a-days is really good and I am happy with that number.
According to me, Indian boxing has changed 55-60% as I had expected and definitely it is a positive number.
Many of my students have played at the National level and have won many medals.
You have trained Ritika Singh for a movie. Please tell us something about that experience.
I trained Ritika for the movie Irudhi Suttru. Ritika was something different. She has a great amount of dedication in her. Her hard work impressed me a lot. She never gave up may it be anything.
I even asked her to come with me and I will turn her into an Olympic Boxer. She gave her 100% in the training sessions and she didn’t stop till gaining perfection. So that was a great experience for me.
R Madhavan also approached me for some advices and training tips for the film Saala Khadoos.
What will be the message you will give to the youth?
I will tell that we have to keep moving ahead. We shouldn’t give up and keep our aims high. We should try to break the previous records and prove to be one step ahead of the previous generation.
I had a bronze in the World Cup and 2 more have Bronze Medals. The upcoming boxers should aim for the Silver or the Gold Medal.
Don’t give up in life and you will surely succeed in life.