This boxer is inspiring talented youngsters to get into the ring by training them for free of cost
Renowned boxer Muhammad Ali once said, “You don’t lose if you get knocked down; you lose if you stay down.”
Thirty seven-year-old Mujtaba Kamal understood this very well. Born and brought up in the cultural capital of India, Kamal picked up his first pair of boxing gloves when he was as young as nine-years-old. From there on, he gradually climbed the ladder and went on to win amateur boxing tournaments both at the state and national levels.
Mujtaba Kamal encouraging a young boxer at a match.
However, it was not a smooth sail for Kamal. From losing his father really early in life and doing odd jobs to earn his daily bread, to practicing punches, jabs, and uppercuts on his own, he went through a slew of struggles.
Despite working hard and overcoming multiple obstacles, Kamal could not fulfil his dream of being a professional boxer in the long run and representing India at the international level. This was mainly because of the lack of resources, opportunities, and coaching facilities available for professional boxing (also known as pro boxing) in India.
Realising this, Kamal took it up as a challenge to build a foundation for professional boxing in the country.
“I was not able to realise my aspiration of getting into professional boxing even in the face of a lot of effort. But I did not want other talented young minds to go through the same. So now, I am directing all my energy towards spreading awareness about the much-neglected sport and also training some boxers for free of cost,” Mujtaba Kamal tells SocialStory.
An uplifting journey
Kamal’s passion for sports kicked in when he was studying in class IV at a government school in Khidirpur, Kolkata. Though he was initially interested in football, he picked up boxing after watching a few fierce fights on television.
Since Kamal was not in a good financial position at the time, he could not afford to go for coaching classes. After Kamal’s father passed away, his mother had to go the extra mile to take care of him as well as his two sisters and a brother.
Mujtaba (left) during his younger days.
“My mother used to work at a textile processing unit where she was involved in giving finishing touches to jeans. We were barely able to make ends meet with the money she earned,” recalls Kamal.
It was sheer passion that drove Kamal to keep his spirits up and pursue boxing. He learnt most of the boxing techniques by watching videos and matches of champions like Naseem Hamed and Bernard Hopkins, among others. Subsequently, Kamal dedicated a lot of time practicing these moves.
Kamal participated and won a gold medal as well at many prestigious competitions such as the Germany Cup in 1998, YMCA International in 1999, and the South Asian Cup in 2001, to name a few.
Mujtaba receiving a certificate for his achievements.
As his career progressed, Kamal resolved to take up professional boxing, which is generally more regulated when compared to amateur boxing, and can last longer (up to 12 rounds). Owing to the dearth of resources and opportunities in India, Kamal resigned from his job in the Indian Railways and moved to Hong Kong.
“I took up quite a few jobs after I went to Hong Kong to sustain my living. For the most part, I worked as a waiter and delivery boy. Later, I got to work as a trainer at a gym and teach people boxing as a form of fitness. At the same time, I put in efforts to upskill myself to get better at professional boxing by picking up better techniques and working on my strength,” explains Kamal.
Just when everything was falling in place, Kamal suffered a severe jaw injury, which jeopardised his career in pro boxing. So, he decided to return to India.
Encouraging and training youngsters
Although Kamal was going through a major setback, he did not lose hope. He joined fitness chain Cult.Fit as a boxing coach in Bengaluru and began spreading the word about the sport.
Not only was he engaged in introducing boxing as a form of fitness, he also took up the initiative of training many talented youngsters in professional boxing completely free of cost.
Mujtaba along with his young trainees.
“When my dream of becoming a pro boxer came crumbling down, the only thought that was running in my head was – So what if I couldn’t make it? Let me help others reach their goal. Today, I coach more than 40 amateurs for two hours everyday to help them step into pro boxing. My focus areas are – strength, endurance, and technique,” notes Kamal.
The 37-year-old identifies amateur boxers who possess vigour and potential and then offers to train them. Two such individuals are Karthik Sathish Kumar and Faizan Anwar. While Karthik has already won the gold medal in the youth world boxing championship, Faizan emerged triumphant against renowned boxers like Anucha Noithong, Jun Paderna, and Gideon Agbosu.
In addition to this endeavor, Kamal has also been actively involved in raising awareness about pro boxing on social media.
Professional boxing is still extremely nascent in India. Apart from Vijender Singh, there are not many well-known boxers here.
“My aim is to set the stage for the sport in the country and train youngsters for intense battles so that they can represent India in the 2024 Olympics,” says Kamal.