Before the team left for the World Championships in Doha, Devendro Singh had insisted Indian boxers had it in them to at least reach the semifinals if they got a favourable draw.
As it turned out, the 23-year-old Manipuri got the worst deal of the lot and it resulted in a premature first-round exit for him on the opening day of the World Championships on Tuesday.
Devendro lost 2-1 to European Championships silver-medallist Harvey Horn of England in a closely-contested bout. From England’s perspective, the draw was seen as a tough one for Horn, who lacks in experience compared to Devendro. However, the 20-year-old from London has risen rapidly in the last one year and further enhanced his reputation by finishing on the podium at the European Championships.
He showed his class in the first round of the light flyweight encounter, surprising Devendro with his counter-punches. The Indian, one of the best medal hopes, tried to stage a comeback but lost the bout by split points decision.
Other Indian contenders, however, progressed to the second round with easy wins in their respective bouts. Shiva Thapa, a former Asian champion, started the proceedings on a perfect note as he outpunched Algeria’s Khalil Litim 3-0 in the 56kg category. The 21-year-old will next face Morocco’s Mohamed Hamout, who got a first-round bye.
Another medal prospect, Vikas Krishan, also sailed past Hungary’s Zoltan Harcsa 3-0 to make the last-16 stage.
Vikas, who has replaced Beijing Games bronze medallist Vijender Singh in the 75kg category, has a very tough bout next as he will be up against fourth-seeded Tomasz Jablonski, a European Championships silver-medallist. Vikas had won a bronze medal at the 2011 edition of the event — only the second Indian to do so after Vijender.
The Haryana-lad dominated his bout against an immensely jittery rival and won by a unanimous decision.
“Both Shiva and Vikas dominated their bouts in the first two rounds and took it easy in the third for obvious reasons. They have tough opponents in the next round but fingers crossed for a good result,” national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said.
“Shiva dominated the tall boxer from Algeria in the rounds, which was good. He caught his opponent off guard with his powerful right and occasional upper-cuts followed by a left hook to the face. Shiva was in total control in the three rounds.”
However, it was curtains for Manoj Kumar (64kg) in the very first round as he was stunned 1-2 to Moroccon Abdelhak Aatakni. The former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist was surprisingly rusty in the opening round and the loss of momentum cost him dearly. His movement sluggish in the first two rounds, Manoj gathered himself in the final three minutes but the comeback was a tad too late as Aatakni clinched the bout.