Former champion boxer, now a load man, trains poor kids

Saranraj had won gold in junior and senior categories at the State level, and a bronze at the national level

A decade ago, V. Saranraj dreamt of boxing in the Olympics.

A bronze medal-winner at the nationals, his dream ended six years ago. Today, he works as a load man at Chennai Central railway station but keeps alive his boxing dreams by teaching the sport to poor children in north Chennai, the cradle of the city’s boxers.

Although he was introduced to boxing early in life, not until his first gold medal at the State-level sub junior match, did he realise that he could make it big in the sport. He won gold in boxing in junior and senior category in the State-level matches and bronze at the national-level but later had to give up the sport to feed his family.

Now, he earns ₹400 to ₹500 a day as a load man — similar to the protagonist of the boxing movie Sarpatta Parambarai — to support his family. After finishing his shift, he rushes to the Corporation playground on Basin Water Works Street near Elephant Gate Police station to train about two dozen “million dollar babies”.

From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., six days a week, he teaches these poor children boxing for free. “It has been truly satisfying. It is an absolute joy to play and teach the sport. The children living here certainly cannot afford to pay for boxing. I have no money to give but I am passing on everything I have learnt,” he says.

In what is considered a sport dominated by men, he says, he persuaded many parents in this neighbourhood to get their girls to learn boxing. “I tell the parents that if the kids can get into national-level bouts, they can get a job with the government when they finish schooling,” he says.

The youngest of the lot, seven-year-old M. Varsha finds boxing fun and refreshing. M. Darshini, a 12-year-old and a gold medallist already, plans to pursue boxing seriously. “I want to be a successful boxer and then join the police force,” she says, about her twin dreams. Even if nothing else comes of it, Mr. Saranraj thinks boxing will keep the children away from other distractions. “Fortunately, they love sparring. I’m reliving my boxing dream through the children of my neighbourhood,” he says.

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