‘Still feel guilty about letting down Indian Army’
Professional glory across seven seas could never make up for the ignominy of being labelled a deserter in his own country, insists US-based India boxer Gurcharan Singh, who cannot wait for his homecoming under the newly-formed pro body -- the Indian Boxing Council (IBC).
Much before Beijing 2008, when Vijender Singh became India’s first Olympic medallist, the Punjab-lad was in touching distance of the feat in the 2000 Sydney edition but fell short by a sudden death point in what seemed like a harsh decision by the judges.
That heartbreak left him so disillusioned that Gurcharan left for the US without informing anyone in the Indian boxing fraternity, leaving the federation, coaches and his then employers -- Indian army -- stunned.
He did make a name for himself in the US pro circuit winning 20 of his 21 bouts -- 11 of them knockout victories -- but the heavyweight boxer says he cannot forgive himself for letting down the Indian Army -- where he was Naik Subedar in the 17 Sikh Battalion.
“I feel bad about what I did to the Indian Army. They were so good to me, made me the boxer that I am and I miss my unit too. I can’t even explain how it feels when I think about that. It still makes me feel very guilty,” Gurcharan told PTI in an interview from New York as he geared up for a return to the country.
For quite some time after he left India, Gurcharan was called a “deserter” by the Army and even faced the prospect of departmental action on return but the 38-year-old said all those issues are now settled.
“There is no problem on that front, all that is sorted. What remains is my own sense of guilt. They took care of me, I should have handled things with them in a better way,” he said.
He was all but done with his professional career in the US as well after a back injury but a call from IBC President Brig. (Retd) P K Muralidharan Raja got him up and running again.