Meet Ananta Chopade, a farmer’s son taking on boxing biggies

NEW DELHI: Ananta Chopade has come a long way from helping his father in his small plot of land back in Sawna village of the Buldhana district in Maharashtra. Currently, a part of the Bombay Bullets team in the Big Bout League, he will face...

Meet Ananta Chopade, a farmer’s son taking on boxing biggies

NEW DELHI: Ananta Chopade has come a long way from helping his father in his small plot of land back in Sawna village of the Buldhana district in Maharashtra. Currently, a part of the Bombay Bullets team in the Big Bout League, he will face off with World Championship silver medallist Amit Panghal in the semifinals on Thursday.

But all of this was a far-fetched dream for Ananta’s parents Pralhad and Kushivarta Chopade. Pralhad, a small farmer and Kushivarta, who used to do odd jobs, could not afford to send their eldest son to college, who ended up becoming an auto-rickshaw driver. They did not want their younger son to go the same way but he was never interested in studies and his boundless energy could not be contained. A chance meeting with a local athletics coach, who suggested Ananta be sent to Krida Prabodhini, a state sports hostel in Akola, changed everything.

Satish Chandra Bhat, who remains his coach to date, saw his potential and started grooming him to become a boxer. But it was Vijender Singh’s medal-winning display at the 2008 Olympics that convinced his ward of the merits of the sport. “My parents were happy that I would get some direction in life when I shifted to the hostel. But I was not sure whether boxing was for me but seeing Vijender win in Beijing made me more focussed,” the 21-year-old told this daily.

While slowly climbing up the ranks, what mattered most for the 52kg pugilist was landing a job. But it was not so easy with no gold medals coming his way. In the Nationals, a bronze in 2016 and a silver in 2018 came his way but the loss in final broke him. “To this day, I think the result should have gone my way. I was depressed and I knew the situation back home was not improving.”

His chance to make amends finally came his way when he was selected to take part in the 23rd edition of the Indonesian President’s Cup in Labuan Bajo. He grabbed gold, defeating Afghanistan’s Ramish Rahmani. Interestingly, six-time world champion MC Mary Kom encouraged him to fight back against the injustice.

Subsequently, he landed a job with the Railways and was even picked for the Tokyo Test Event as well as the Big Bout draft. And now, his father does not work in other people’s fields while his mother has also stopped working in other households.

“As soon as I got the job, I told both of them to concentrate on our own farm and house instead of others. As far as facing Amit is concerned, I’m confident of putting up a good show. My parents will be watching and hopefully, I can make them proud.”