All through his career,Shiva Thapa has lived in the shadow of the more famous senior boxer Akhil Kumar,who till recently had dominated the competition in the bantamweight category. On Monday,the 18-year-old was a step away from charting his own course as he stunned Athens silver medalist Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand 16-10 at the Asian Olympic qualifiers and advanced to the semifinals in the 56kg category.
I want to be known by my own style of boxing Thapa told The Indian Express from Astana after the bout. The win took him closer to a London berth he is ensured of making to the Olympics by reaching the final.
The 2006 Commonwealth Games gold medalist Akhil has had a great impact on Thapas career but he hasnt really aped his style of boxing.
Bantamweight was something I always fancied. When Akhil bhai defeated world champion Sergey Vodopyanov (at the Beijing Olympics),we watched it on television in Imphal and would often dream of replicating such feats, he says.
Big match player
Mondays win is not the first time Thapa has upset a competition favourite. A year ago,he beat then world champion Daleklive Datelin of Bulgaria in the Belgrade Winner International,in what was his debut with the senior Indian team. When I made my debut with the senior team last year,before the final bout,I did not know Datelin was a world champion. My coaches had not told me and I played my natural game, says Thapa.
The qualifiers are only his second outing at the senior level,and Thapa proved he was up to the task at the international level again. He was leading 5-3 against the Thai at the end of the first round before going all out in the second,running to a 12-5 lead. Known as an aggressive boxer in the final rounds,Thapa was uncharacterictically defensive in the last two rounds,even letting his opponent take the third round 4-5 before signing off the bout with a pointless last round. But his initial surge was enough to keep him in contention.
With three spots on offer in his category,Thapa,in fact,can make it to London even if he fails to reach the final by winning the bronze playoff. However,the Manipuri youngster is not thinking in those terms. Whenever we play in Central Asian countries,we take some time to adjust. My body was a little stiff today and Petchkoom was concentrating on medium range shots. I wanted to maintain my lead in the second round and countered his actions with quick movements. I am not concentrating on the third quota,I want to reach the final to book my ticket, he says. Thapa will next face Japans Satoshi Simizu in the semis.
National coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu believes Thapa has to counter the awkward style of his opponent with quick punches but once he manages that,it will be easy. Simizu has an advantage of height and he is left-handed. But he plays a bit awkward. Sometimes,it is difficult to face such a boxer,who does not have a classical style,and Thapa has to concentrate hard on his foot movement. Tomorrow being a rest day,most boxers will concentrate on their practice, he says.
All five Indians still in the fray will be facing their semifinal opponents on Wednesday. While CWG gold medalist Paramjeet Samota (91+kg),who got a bye in the first round,and Manpreet Singh (91kg) will have to win gold for an Olympics berth,Sumit Sangwan and Thapa only need to make the final. Vijender Singh has already made the grade by reaching the semifinal.