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Top boxers bring out best in me: Deepak Bhoria

World Championship bronze medallist Deepak Bhoria, who has a penchant for defeating some of the giants of the game, feels fighting against top boxers “brings out the best in me”.

Deepak produced one of the best performances for India in recent years as he upstaged Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist and 2021 World Champion Saken Bibossinov 5-2, in the second round at the recently-concluded World Championships.

A couple of years earlier, Deepak had stunned the then Olympic champion and 2019 World Championships gold medallist Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan, at the Strandja Memorial Boxing Tournament.

“When the other boxer is good, I feel that it will be a good bout. I try to up my game and play well because I feel if I beat him toh naam hoga.

“So, I play with that confidence against him. It brings out the best me,” Deepak told PTI.

The 25-year-old Deepak, who had to overcome poor financial conditions and injuries to make it to the top, is among the 10 male pugilists in the country to have won a World Championships medal.

“Finally, I have a World Championship medal. This will give me a lot of confidence for other tournaments,” said Deepak, who has now set sights on the Asian Games and Paris Olympics.

Deepak endured a challenging 2022 wherein he sustained an injury on his right shoulder in January, which forced him to spend most of the year on the sidelines.

“After the injury, my time during rehab was very, very tough. I had not played combat for a while I was also considering whether I should play or not. But somehow, I focussed on my hand and worked on my entire body — mentally and physically — and that has benefitted me,” he said.

Against Zoirov, Deepak’s most lethal weapon was his left hook and the Army man revealed it was the new foreign coach Dmitry Dmitruk’s suggestion to use it in a combination move.

“My left has always been good but in the second bout, coach Dimitry told me that when I am hitting with the right, he (the opponent) is moving back. So if I add a left (hook), that will hurt him. I did so and it helped me,” Deepak said.

Trailing on two cards, Deepak had fashioned a stunning comeback in the final three minutes to take the round against the Kazakh.

Deepak added that after his injury to the right shoulder, he used his left arm more, but the former Irish boxer and India’s High Performance Director Bernard Dunne encouraged him to use his right hand.

“I worked on my right side and added power. But Bernard asked me to use the right more and since I have started using my right, I am able to connect more and powerful punches,” Deepak said.

Having missed out on the final at the Worlds, Deepak will have to go through the Boxing Federation of India’s evaluation process to book his place in the upcoming Asian Games, which is the first Olympic qualifier for boxers from the continent.

Deepak’s main rival for the 51kg spot will once again be Amit Panghal.

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