In a wide-ranging conversation, Manish Harode discusses his journey so far, his struggles in day-to-day life and how he envisages his road ahead in pro boxing.
Life doesn’t deal everyone an equal hand; some are privileged enough to have the resources and backing to pursue their goals and ambitions, while some are just merely surviving and trying to make the most out of every single opportunity that knocks on their door. The old adage – People raised on love don’t see the world the same way as those raised on survival – holds true once again.
Hailing from the small town of Dewas in Madhya Pradesh, Manish Harode is one of the upcoming stars in the professional boxing circuit. Recently, we got the chance to talk with Manish about his journey so far and his ambitions moving forward.
As a kid, we’ve all had our fair share of defining moments where we thought “This is what I want to be” and Manish was no different. Talking about how he fell in love with boxing, Manish said, “We were in 10th standard, the school had arranged a school trip for us to the movie theatre, and that was the first time I had visited a movie theatre. The movie, M.C. Mary Kom was screened and as soon as I watched the whole movie I told myself I wanted to be a boxer.
“Then, on 21st December of 2016, I joined a Boxing Club for the very first time. I was just out of school, but I wanted to do it. Since then, Ravi Girjapurkar sir has been my mentor and trainer. He was a famous coach in Jabalpur and then came to our city of Dewas.”
When asked whether there was support from his friends and family, he said, “To be honest with you, in the short-term and in the long-term I have kept my studies parallel with my boxing. And keeping that in mind I scored about 89% in my 12th boards, mainly due to the reason that my parents wanted me to focus more on my studies. Plus, there was no support for my boxing. For them, my life should only revolve around our vegetable shop and my studies.”
Mentality and outlook of people
Belonging to a low-income family, Manish has always been on the back foot with his bouts against life. His parents have been in the business of selling vegetables for over 30 years, and Manish does all he can to help his ageing parents with the shop while also keeping his training schedule consistent. Discussing how the psychology of people in and around him affects his presence of mind, Manish sheds some light on his days in Dewas:
“Where I am coming from, the mentality of the people is simple, open a small shop, no forward-thinking or anything. People are just happy to earn a daily minimum income to feed their family. And most of the people are not physically strong or well educated. They still believe in having what you call simple means of living and live happily within their confines.”
Lack of money and family support
No matter which sport you associate yourself with, you need time and, mainly, money to further your career. And the support from your own family becomes paramount to moulding your career. When asked how he maintains his training schedule amidst his family’s financial woes, Manish said,
“Initially, I had training from 6-8 pm, but as my parents wanted me to focus only on my studies and the shop, I would often lie to them that I was visiting a friend of mine and would try to attend my training session every day. When in 2016 I had no vehicle with me and the club was about four kilometres from our shop, I used to take one of my friend’s bicycle or walk the journey, but I tried to be as regular as I could because I was always into physical fitness, and hence it didn’t take me long to learn the art and craft of boxing.
“And the thing with boxing is, it takes you around two to three years to learn the basics, and I’ve been in it for just over four years, but I know I still have a long way to go. With the lack of support from my family, and since we are vegetarians, I haven’t been able to take protein or non-veg food to buff my body. Plus, you also need money to maintain your diet and everything, something which we don’t have in abundance. So, I used to borrow money from my friends to buy protein and other ingredients for my diet and little by little I repaid them all the money.”
We asked him about how he manages to take time out for his boxing, to which he said, “My mom and dad are about 50 years old now, and vegetable selling is our family business. They’ve been in the business for over 30 years and I don’t like to see them work at this stage of their lives. So every day I train from 4 to 6 in the morning then from 7 to 9. I stock up all the vegetables from the wholesale market, and I am the one who looks after the shop these days and stay there usually till 1 or 2 in the afternoon.
After that, I come back home for some rest. Then again from 4 to 6 in the evening, I sit in the shop, then go to the club for my evening training session of two hours. Then I return to the shop for another couple of hours since it’s closing time by 10 pm and in a vegetable shop you have to rearrange everything before closing, thus I stay back and close the shop so that my parents don’t have to lift the heavy crates.”
The effects of the pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has affected a lot of lives, mainly the lockdown that took away people’s jobs, businesses, lives, and Manish was a victim too as the lockdown came at the worst possible moment for him and his family.
“In 2019, I got selected as a boxing and HRT trainer in Cult Curefit. And in December of 2019, I got the call that I was selected and had to come to Mumbai for two months of training. I was happy because after my training I would be able to work from Indore and also help my family financially. But on 20th December my parents were visiting the village and met with an accident.
“My father came out of it with only a few scratches, but my mother was seriously injured. She broke her hip bone which resulted in the doctors recommending her three to four months of bed rest. Now that accident was on 20th December 2019, and I had to report to Mumbai on 1st January 2020. I was really in a dilemma about whether to go or not. If you have so much going on in your life, how can one think about leaving at that point?
“But after a few difficult conversations with my parents, I made the decision to go and take my training in Mumbai. I came back after two months and started working from Indore. But then, we all know what happened in March. The coronavirus forced the lockdown and Cult Fitness also decided to shut down its operations and I was asked to resign from my job, losing my only source of income in this pandemic. And now it makes me happy that I didn’t stop my education, I am currently in the final year of my B.Com degree. Even if I don’t accomplish everything I’ve dreamt of or fail to realise my potential in boxing, I will also have a backup career option because of my higher education.”
Challenges in transitioning from amateur to professional boxing
Manish started off as an amateur boxer, and with time has explored the realm of professional boxing as well. We asked him what was the biggest challenge in his transition from amateur to pro boxing, to which he replied,
“I made my amateur debut in Dehradun thanks to Punch Boxing. The thing with amateur boxing is that it is completely dependent on speed-game and consists of only three rounds, whereas pro boxing is totally opposite to amateur boxing – it has a speed-game just like amateur boxing but the power-game also comes into play. So, when I started pro boxing, power gain was a big challenge for me.
“And most of the boxers that I have fought against have been into pro boxing for much longer than I have and are well equipped and have sound backing. Since the training regime of pro boxing is a lot different from the normal training I have done all my life, I did the next best thing I could – I would keenly study the training schedule and diet plans of established pro boxers, and accordingly, I planned my sessions and diet.”
Short-term and long-term goals
Talking about his goals and career ambitions, Manish said, “Recently I had a fight in Delhi against Sagar Narwat, and Sagar himself is a great athlete and his training is much better than mine, he has his own academy.
“Then when I first received the call that I would be fighting Sagar, a lot of things started running in my mind. You have to compete with pro boxers but don’t have adequate training and you have to look after your family as well, so things weren’t easy for me. But I said to myself, there’s no point in contemplating so much about it, as it was an opportunity for me nonetheless. And I just couldn’t pass on the opportunity to feature in the main event of Punch Boxing. So, my short-term goal is to compete in as many matches and events as I can and learn and improve from the mistakes I made, or the superior qualities of my opponents.
“Well, there are and will be a lot of difficulties on this journey, but I have this one goal that I want to compete for a world title in the future and become a world champion. My inspiration is the likes of Floyd Mayweather and such, who started with nothing and now are enjoying such a luxurious life. And it stuck to my mind. If they can rise from the bottom where no one gave them a chance, why can’t I?”
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A message to fellow upcoming athletes
Manish has now spent almost five years in his fight to make a name for himself in the boxing circuit, and when asked whether he would like to leave a message for upcoming athletes, he said:
“First and foremost, every young boy or girl growing up needs to associate himself/herself with a sport. Even if you are in the education field, you need sports in your life. Sport is the only thing that teaches you to walk hand in hand with success and failure at the same time. Suppose if you are preparing to participate in a tournament in a month’s time, you’ll be investing most of your time in preparation, taking time away from parents, from friends, and with time they start to think that you’re enjoying your own life and don’t care about anyone else.
“And when you come back, the only thing in their mind is the result, whether you have won or lost, and if you lose they’ll slag you off not caring about how much effort you’ve put into it, what sacrifices you’ve made. So, at times it can be very daunting for a teenager growing up in a negative environment. And that is why I suggest that kids take up a sport and put their heart into it as it’ll surely help them in dealing with the harsh realities of life.“