As a youngster, Manisha Moun would accompany her elder brother to the volleyball ground at the RKSD College Stadium in Kaithal without telling dad Krishan Moun. While her father only knew about her practising judo at the venue apart from playing volleyball, Manisha would be training under boxing coach Rajinder Singh.
It was around this time that Krishan suffered the first of his heart attacks and the farmer-cum-tractor mechanic had to worry about the medical expenses apart from the needs of his three children.
Those tough times were recalled on Monday when 24-year-old Manisha secured her maiden world championship medal with a 4:1 split decision win over Mongolia’s Namuun Mankhor in the 57 Kg category at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in Istanbul, Turkey.
“Our family wanted Manisha to go outside so she would often accompany her brother to the volleyball stadium. But we did not know that she was approached by coach Rajinder Singh, who got her enrolled into boxing. When she became district champion within two years, we got to know about her feat, and I praised her in front of all my relatives and neighbours. So far, she has won more than 40 medals but this one, whatever colour she brings home, will be special for us. She told me that a medal in Turkey will be no less than an Olympics for us and I am glad that she has proved herself,” an emotional Krishan told The Indian Express.
🆃🅷🆁🅾️🆄🅶🅷 🆃🅷🅴 🅻🅴🅽🆂 📸
2️⃣nd medal confirmed ✅ ! 👊🔥
Way to go, Manisha ! 👏👏
— Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) May 16, 2022
While her father owned a 1.5-acre farm apart from working as a tractor mechanic in their village, Manisha’s interest in boxing meant that the family had to look for funds to support her training. While a young Manisha would often bring some prize money from local boxing tournaments to mother Usha Rani, the family faced a tough time in those years when Krishan suffered his first heart attack and spent more than a month at the PGIMER in Chandigarh. “She was a child at that time and would not understand my condition. She would tell us that she is going to training but would always ask her mother about my health. Whatever prize money she won, she would give to her mother,” remembers Krishan.
Coach Gurmeeet Singh, a trainee of Rajinder Singh, who has been training Manisha since 2014 remembers her early days in boxing. “Is ladki main zunoon hai kuch seekhne ka (This girl has the passion to learn). At that time, we had fewer female boxers at the academy and would train her with boys. It also meant that she would take part in cross-country runs every week in which she would finish in the top three in the 21-km country run. It helped her build stamina and she maintains the habit of running cross-country events even now. She has always been a fan of 2006 Commonwealth Games champion Akhil Kumar and her left punch is just like Akhil with a bit of an open guard,” says Singh.
BRILLIANT MANISHA! 👏👏🔝
— Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) May 16, 2022
A silver at the junior Haryana boxing championships in 2013 was followed by successive All India Inter-University titles in 2016 and 2017 before Manisha won three international medals in 2018. It was the year when she would win the trials for the 2018 World Championships in Delhi, where she would reach the quarter-finals before losing to 2016 world championship silver medallist Stoyko Petrova of Bulgaria. During her campaign, Manisha would score wins over two-time world championship medallist Christina Cruz of USA and 2017 world champion Dina Zhalaman of Kazakhstan. She would win a bronze at the Asian Boxing Championships in 2019.
Then came the setback of an elbow injury in 2019 before she decided to shift to the 57 Kg category, where she would compete against the likes of former world youth champion Sakshi Chaudhary, former world medallist Sonia Lather and Sonia Chahal. “She would start her career in the 50 kg category and once she felt confident, she chose 54 Kg as her best weight. The 2018 Nationals silver medal gave her confidence ahead of the world championship trials in 2018 and she could have won a medal in Delhi. She often watches videos of her bouts against Christina and Dina and would observe her mistakes during the rehabilitation period after her elbow injury. When she was dropped from the TOPS scheme recently, she was a bit disappointed as her family’s financial condition is not that good but this medal will hopefully ensure that she gets back into the scheme,” says coach Sarabjit Kaur, who has been in several national camps with Manisha.
The pugilist will now face Irma Testa of Italy in the World Championship semi-finals and her father will be watching the bout with the family at their village. “Sometimes, I would spend extra hours at the tractor shop to earn more money even though Manisha would often ask me to come home early. But then we had loans to repay. She always hands her prize money to me or her mother till now but for us the biggest prize is her medals. The only thing she is fond of while at home is cleaning the house and making space for her medals. This medal will be the brightest of all of her medals till date,” her father says.