The coach-player duo of Senthil Nathan and Iraa Agarwal has had its fair share of challenges in the boxing circuit.
Having shed its blood, sweat and tears over the past few years, the pair’s untiring efforts have finally bore fruit. The 20-year-old Iraa has been selected to represent India in the light flyweight category (45-48kg) of the United International Games (UIG), a competition where 15 countries will vie for top honours. Raring to make her international debut, the Chennai lass is on cloud nine.
“It’s a proud moment for me and my coach. Senthil sir trains most of the kids for free as they come from economically backward classes. Although he gets only a bit of financial support, he works with utmost dedication. He is an inspiration for all of us,” Iraa, a four-time state champion, told DT Next.
It was double delight for Senthil, who was recently appointed Secretary of the Tamil Nadu wing of the Boxing Development Federation of India (BDFI). With the odds stacked against her, the Chennai girl, who is yet to lose a competitive bout, is up for the task.
“We (Indians) will be fighting against players from Cuba, Russia and the USA etc. These are countries which take care of their athletes really well. Getting to the podium in itself will be tough, but I am ready to give it all,” she added.
Iraa, who has been in love with the sport ever since her childhood, had to work her way to the top as she didn’t have proper guidance during the initial stages of her career. “I always had the interest, but didn’t know how to pursue boxing professionally. I happened to meet a senior at a fitness centre. I told him about the passion I had and he guided me. That is how my journey started, in 2015. Now, I am ready to give up anything for boxing,” explained Iraa.
Prior to boxing, Iraa tried her hand at swimming and clinched national-level titles. But even that wasn’t enough to stop her from changing paths. “My mom introduced me to swimming and I did quite well. How do I say it? I didn’t get much joy out of it. I feel I am a natural fighter. I am a big fan of Jackie Chan and Tony Jaa’s movies (laughs),” she revealed.