Tiger Boxing School | Chapora

For the art of the fight and the love of the game, this is not your average bar brawl

Evenings in Chapora are usually meant for sitting at the jetty watching the ships go by into the sunset, and then relax with a beer and a friend in one of the many roadside pubs that this little village has to offer. Evenings in the Tiger Boxing School are a grueling opposite. Everywhere you turn, there is constant movement – the pounding of punch bags and shuffling of feet. And amidst the continuous havoc in sight and sound Coach Fabrizio stands in the centre of his gym – hands folded and a calm little smile on his face. Fabrizio Petroni is at home.JpegThat’s boxing – calmness in chaos. I remember someone describing boxing to me as ‘playing a game of chess after running a marathon.’ After my first round of sparring, I knew what that meant. Like most other sports in India, boxing has to endure living under the shadow of cricket, even after producing an athlete like Mary Kom, easily one of the modern legends of the game. Boxing is usually restricted either to government run gymnasium complexes or elite fitness centres. Therefore, it is a pleasant surprise, if not an anomaly, to find that Fabrizio, a former Italian boxer turned coach, set up his boxing school in India. From the initial humble beginnings, the school grew, with the continuous influx of young Goan talent. Today, Tiger Boxing School has produced state and national champions and the first internationals from Goa. Fabrizio himself worked as the Goa state coach for a few years, fostering the meteoric rise of Goan boxers in the Indian scenario. For a novice, the gym spells legacy. The walls are lined with photographs and newspaper articles of the students’ exploits mixed with photographs of Mohammad Ali and Tyson – little things that remind you of all the people who have trained here before you. Every evening in the gym there is Chandan Chavan and Pushkar Bhonsle – national level medalists, and Valeria Imbrogno – the former Italian kickboxing world champion, and Soniya Parab – touted as Goa’s best boxer, national champion and one of the only few women professional boxers from India.

Fabrizio’s unconventional methods go beyond training. The gym is open for everyone – from talented local youngsters eager to make their mark, visiting tourists with a sense of adventure and out of shape content writers who’ve seen Rocky too many times. What’s more is that the training is free for the local kids, while adults and foreigners have to pay nominal charges. Fabrizio’s approach to boxing is equal parts scientific and childlike. As a science, he has studied it virtually all his life. As art, he asks you to have fun with it – which can be quite challenging when your arms feel like stones and you’re fighting for breath, but with patience, it works. He shows how you can have fun with it, and how you can create, like art. Fabrizio asks you to fight with a smile on your face.

Every Friday evening is sparring. Fabrizio usually spars with all his students, and one by one we enter the ring. It is an experience, but coach carries you through, urging you to MOVE and BREATHE. After the fights, everyone is called back in the ring. The usual bashing session then ensues, punctuated by Fabrizio talking about the philosophy of boxing, his experiences and memories. It is here that boxing becomes more than a sport, and all the passion and romance of the sweet science come out. It is here that the gym becomes family.JpegThe 8th Pandarinath Shirodkar Memorial Boxing Tournament is taking place in Panjim on the 22nd, 23rd and 24th of May. The Tiger Boxing School is working hard in preparing its contingent of boxers for the prestigious tournament. Do not miss the action this weekend. And the next time you are around Chapora, come down to the gym, try your hand at something new this trip and experience another side of Goa.

Contact | Fabrizio Petroni | +91 922 6986126

Location | House 337 Dabolwaddo, Chapora Jetty, Chapora, Bardez, Goa – 403509

Written by Kaushal Sapre