Baku (Azerbaijan) , PTI: Former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Manoj Kumar (64kg) clinched a hard-fought opening win but two other Indian boxers bowed out after losing in the first round of the AIBA World Olympic Qualification Tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Manoj defeated Puerto Rico’s Danielito Zorrila de la Rosa in the opening light welterweight (64kg) 2-1 to enter the second round where he will be up against second seed Mohamed Eslam Ahmed Aly of Egypt on Sunday. “It was a brilliant performance by Manoj. Danielito was cautioned repeatedly for head-butting dangerously and it was to Manoj’s credit that he kept his composure. Especially in the third round, Manoj got his strategy perfectly right by fighting from the long range,” national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu told PTI.
However, Gaurav Bidhuri (52kg) lost 0-3 to American Antonio Vargas in his opening bout to bow out of contention. Bidhuri, however, can still have a shot at Olympic qualification by competing in the final qualifying tournament for professional boxers scheduled to be held in Venezuela next month. Bidhuri, who has competed in the World series of Boxing for two back-to-back seasons, is eligible for the qualifiers, which will feature pro boxers from around the world.
Also in the wee hours last night, Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Mandeep Jangra (69kg) lost 1-2 to Spaniard Youba Sissokho Ndiaye in a hard-fought contest. “Both of them fought their hearts out but unfortunately they could not get the desired results,” Sandhu said. Asian Games gold-medallist Vikas Krishan (75kg) and Commonwealth Games silver-winner L Devendro Singh (49kg) are the only Indians to be seeded in the event’s draw.
While Devendro was given the fourth seeding, Vikas was seeded second and both of them got first-round byes in their respective categories. They will open their campaigns on June 20 against yet-to-be decided rivals.
The tournament has 39 qualifying spots up for grabs — two in the 49kg category, five each in 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69kg, 75kg and 81kg, and just one each in 91kg and +91kg. Over 400 boxers from more than 100 countries are vying for these slots in the final qualifying tournament for amateur boxers.
India have not sent any entry in the 56kg category as Shiva Thapa has already qualified for the Rio Games during the Asian qualifiers in March.