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Vijender lands gold with splendid display

Kamesh Srinivasan

Silver for Santhosh Kumar (64kg) and Manpreet Singh (91kg)


GUANGZHOU: World No.1 Vijender Singh capped India's fine performance in boxing and provided a fitting climax to the contingent's campaign in the Asian Games by humbling the two-time World champion Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan 7-0 for a memorable gold in the middleweight final at the Foshan Gymnasium on Friday.

“I wanted to win the gold. It is great to do it in China, after the disappointment of the Commonwealth Games. My dream has come true,” said Vijender, after one of the finest performances in the ring that took India's tally to 14 gold medals. This was India's second gold medal in boxing, after the effort of Vikas Krishan on Thursday.

Big leap

After the bronze medal in the last edition in Doha, it was a big jump forward for the 25-year-old Vijender, but it was no surprise as he has been growing steadily in stature in the last two years, winning the Olympic and world championship medals.

“It was a superb performance. Vijender boxed with sense and skill. He timed his punches,” said national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu, quite pleased with the performance of the team's leading star who has given a new profile to Indian boxing.

It was indeed a high quality fare from the Indian boxer as Vijender treated the World champion like a novice, and did not let him land a single punch.

In fact, none of the five judges even accidentally pressed a punch for the Uzbek, while they credited as many as 27 punches for the Indian police officer. Actually, the only punch that the Uzbek landed was after the gong at the end of the first round.

On a day when India won two other silver medals through V. Santhosh Kumar in the 64 kg section and Manpreet Singh in the 91kg class, to take the Indian collection to a healthy equation of two gold, three silver and four bronze medals from the ring, Vijender provided the icing on the cake with his confident show.

Vijender warmed up to a 2-0 lead and enhanced it to 5-0 by the second round. He was relaxed and swayed easily in avoiding the swings of the Uzbek. With his feet moving nicely, Vijender was in a position to capitalise on the mistakes as his opponent desperately lunged forward. Vijender vowed to work hard and get the gold medal in the London Olympics in 2012.

“It is a new beginning for Indian boxing. The whole team is doing well,” said Vijender.

Coach Sandhu heaped praise on the coaches, particularly the Cuban coach B. I. Fernandez for his big contribution over the years, and said that he had confidence in the boys but was keeping his fingers crossed as it was tough to predict anything in a sport like boxing. India had won three gold medals in the Commonwealth Games.

Below par display

After such a brilliant performance by Vijender, it was easy to forget the below par performances in the final by both Santhosh Kumar and Manpreet Singh, both of whom managed to win a solitary point each, while being generous in conceding punches.

Santhosh had no defence to speak about and was injudicious in inviting his opponent, Daniyar Yeleussinov of Kazakhstan, who enjoyed the height and reach advantage, for a further feast when the Kazakh was already tired of landing punches on way to a 16-1 triumph. The Kazakh took a 4-0 lead in the first round and was content to play easy in the second when he took a 6-0 lead. However, with Santhosh constantly coming in his range, the Kazakh had no option but to practise his punches, receiving a token punch in the process.

The punishment apart, the 19-year-old Santhosh could gain some confidence from the fact that he emerged only the third medallist in the weight category for India, after Sri Jairam's silver in 1986 and C. Machaiah's bronze in 1978.

The 22-year-old Manpreet was no match for Mohammad Ghoussoun of Syria and managed to land a consolation punch in the end, in his 1-8 defeat. The overwhelming defeat apart, it was a fine performance by Manpreet Singh to have won his second silver on the big stage, four years after the silver he had won in Melbourne in the Commonwealth Games.

India finished second only to China which collected 10 medals including five gold, from among the 14 countries that managed to get among the medals.

Chinese surge

There was a lot to cheer for host China as well, as Dong Cheng (women' 60kg), Li Jinzi (women's 75 kg), Zou Shiming (49 kg) won the gold, while Zhang Jiawei found his match in Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand who silenced the strong local support with an 8-3 victory in the 56 kg section.

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