GANDHINAGAR : A Mumbai-based boxing coach, Dhananjay Tiwari, died in a road accident while he was travelling on his bike from the metropolitan city to Gandhinagar in Gujarat to watch his ward, Maharashtra's Nikhil Dubey, compete in the semifinal bout at the 36th National Games here.
After winning his quarterfinal bout on Monday, Nikhil dialled his long-time coach Dhananjay in Mumbai and prepared him to undertake a bike journey to Gandhinagar, but fate had something else in store for the coach.
Tiwary died in the accident by the time Nikhil won the 75kg semifinal against Services boxer Sumit Kundu.
"He met with an accident on the way. It was his dream that somehow I win my bout today and fight for the gold medal. His name was Dhananjay Tiwary," an emotional Nikhil said after his bout.
"I spoke to him yesterday. I told him I have a bout with Sumit (Kundu). He told me he would be coming. He said he knew I had the ability to beat him and win the gold. He said he would come for the bout. He was coming for the bout.
"It was a big shock for me (his death). At one point, I was thinking about how could I fight. But that's what he wanted and he hoped for from me so I had to fight. It's very important to win gold over here," said Nikhil.
Nikhil will compete in the final and head to Mumbai to attend the coach's funeral. "He used to love driving. He had an Enfield and he routinely travelled long distances on it. He'd travelled to Goa many times in the past. He was in the third lane and suddenly a tractor crossed from the first lane to the third lane," said Nikhil, giving details of the mishap.
Nikhil was being mentored by Dhananjay for eight years at his club and the coach was also giving financial support to the family. "He was my senior when I started. He supported me a lot not just in the ring but also in my life because my family's (financial) condition wasn't very strong. He has been with me for eight years. I train in Mumbai's West Malad alongside sir at the Dhananjay boxing club. He would be around 32 years old," Nikhil said, recalling his association with the coach.
Nikhil's first tryst with the sport began in school when his teacher Nilesh Sharma handed him a pair of gloves and encouraged him to join the Sports Authority of India (SAI) academy, where his association with Dhananjay began.
"When I was in school, we had a sports day, where they would introduce us to other sports. One day they gave his gloves and suggested we try boxing. Our sports teacher Nilesh Sharma told us to go to SAI if we wanted to learn more," he said.
"My first memory of Dhananjay sir was when I was on the ground for the first time. He had come from training. He asked if I would like to become a boxer. I said sure I will. He said what will you achieve as a boxer? I said I'll beat anyone in front of me.
"He said, 'Are you sure?' I said I would. Even if I have to. I would have been around 12 years then," he said recalling his first meeting with his coach.
The 22-year-old Nikhil lost his father Premnath Dubey in the first wave of Covid-19 and is now being supported by his brothers, Shaklesh Dubey, Abhishek and Deepak Dubey. "My father died in the first wave of the Covid. At that time, everything was all over the place. My brothers work in the insurance field and they have been a big support," he said.
Nikhil, who underwent an ACL surgery in 2020, was out of the game for two years. On his return to the ring, he lost to Sumit in the semifinals of the national championships and wanted to avenge the loss on Tuesday.
"I had an ACL surgery in 2019 so I was taking rest for 2 years. I only returned to the ring in 2021 where I played the senior nationals. I lost in the semifinals to Sumit Kundu. This time bhaiyya told me that you deserve the gold," he said.