NEW DELHI: Inside a gymnasium in Aizawl, a stocky but well-chiselled figure is often seen donning a pair of 10oz gloves.
Indian football team striker Jeje Lalpekhlua takes his stance in front of a punching bag and expertly uses his feet to move around while planting his knuckles on the back in a series of right jabs and left hooks.
The 29-year-old, who has joined SC East Bengal for the current season and has 21 international goals from 56 caps for India, however, is no stranger to the ring.
"One day, my father brought home a pair of boxing gloves, and I started practicing with them. Soon I took up proper coaching and started competing in local tournaments too," Jeje told the-aiff.com.
"I used to play a number of sports back when I was young, and boxing was one of them, along with football and tennis," said the 29-year-old.
The seasoned striker had even gone on to win a junior level local boxing tournament, the Hnahthial Open, when he was around 10 years old.
"It's always nice to win something. I really enjoyed boxing - I still do. This is a sport that really puts you through a lot of hard training, and you can always reap the benefits of that, even as a footballer," Jeje said.
While he had started off with multiple sports, Jeje soon had to make a choice and picked football as the discipline in which he would pursue a career. "I think I was good in boxing but after discussing with my family, I chose football," he stated.
The rigorous routine that boxers have to pursue is something that helps those in the sport achieve supreme levels of fitness, leading up to important matches or tournaments. However, even after he chose to pursue football on a full-time basis, Jeje has found a way to inculcate something from his past into his training.
"I generally do not get the opportunity to do any boxing training routines during a busy season," said the two-time ISL and one-time I-League winner.
"But when I come home for the off-season, I do make it a point to go to the boxing academy here in Aizawl to get back that old touch," he added. IANS