Nikhil Dubey produced one of the most inspiring and emotional moments of the National Games that concluded in Surat on Wednesday. The Maharashtra boxer won gold in the men’s middleweight category, but stood on top of the podium, devoid of any joy.
He looked skywards and thanked his coach and mentor, Dhananjay Tiwari, with folded hands. Tiwari wasn’t among the spectators at the Mahatma Mandir Complex’s boxing arena in Gandhinagar to cheer and watch his ward secure the biggest medal of his nascent boxing career. The coach died tragically in a highway accident while riding his bike from Mumbai to Gujarat to watch his ward in action.
“I cherish this medal. I will always be thankful to my coach for shaping up my career. I’ll miss him,” said Dubey.
After winning his quarterfinal bout on Monday, Dubey called his Mumbai-based coach to inform him about his high-octane clash against reigning national champion Sumit Kundu in the semis. The excited coach readied himself for a bike ride from Mumbai to Gandhinagar. But he met with a road accident on his way and succumbed to his injuries by the time Dubey won his 75kg category bout against the Services boxer.
“It was his dream that I would win my bout against Kundu and fight for the gold medal. I spoke to him on Monday and told him I was fighting Kundu. He was so excited and said he was coming for my bout. He said, ‘I know you have the ability to beat him and win the gold’,” an emotional Dubey said after winning the title.

Dubey kept the promise made to his coach and won the gold by defeating Malsawmtluanga of Mizoram 5-0 in the final on Wednesday. “It was a big shock for me (to hear about his death). At one point, I was wondering how I would fight in the final. But that’s what he wanted from me – to win the gold,” said Dubey.
Dubey said he will now head straight to Mumbai to attend the funeral of Tiwari. “He loved driving and often travelled long distances on his Bullet. He’d been to Goa on his bike many times in the past. He was in the third lane and suddenly a tractor crossed from the first lane and hit him,” he said about the fatal incident.
For the past eight years, Tiwari didn’t only mentor Dubey at his academy but also supported the boxer’s finances. “He was my senior when I started. He supported me a lot, not just in the ring but also in my life because my family’s financial condition wasn’t good. He was with me for eight years. I trained at the Dhananjay boxing club in Mumbai’s West Malad,” said Dubey.
It isn’t the first time that the 22-year-old has battled destiny. He lost his father, Premnath, in the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and is now being supported by his brothers, Shaklesh, Abhishek and Deepak.

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By Dipak

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