For all his flamboyance when he is in the public flashlights,Vijender Singh remains a conservative and unostentatious boxer in the ring. He gives respect to new opponents,eschews razzmatazz and remains a reassuring competitor in big meets when gushing adrenaline could have forced a lesser man into committing silly blunders.
The Olympic bronze medallists calculated straight punches have stayed steady from Beijing to his opening bout in London. Summoning them precisely,sneaking them in smartly between concentrated bouts of flurry,Vijender got past Kazakhstans Danabek Sukhanov late Saturday night to move into the 75 kg prequarters,winning 14-10.
Not one to waste punches for shoulder speed isnt his forte Vijender kept a fiercely closed guard in a defensive bout. So chummy was the fighting distance between the two that both sets of arms kept busy at crowding the opponent in permissible limits of clutching rather than unleashing the hits. Still,Vijender was opportunistic and led 5-4 at the end of the first round,and doubled the lead to two points in the second.
He picked up a gear in the final round,safe in the knowledge of a passage onto the next stage should he not concede any silly points. So,the block remained his strongest weapon,even as the Kazakh faded off. It wasnt the prettiest match to look at strictly safe. But on a day when Indias bubbling bantamweight Shiva Thapa had exited after inexperience showed up,Vijender was a ready lesson to the youngster on what errors he ought to avoid.
One reason why Vijenders opener seemed dull was because in the preceding bout,American Terrell Gausha had pulled off a heist in the dying seconds against Armenian Andranik Hukobyan. Hukobyan led for most part,with Gausha skulking around the ring with not much of a plan but to evade a decisive onslaught.
Then in two moments of outrageous inspiration,the American floored Hukobyan,not once but twice,the second time earning a Referee Stops Contest against him.
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All this would have been just another high-decibel moment at the Excel Arena,except that Gausha plays Vijender next. I started well today,now we will watch (Gaushas) videos and plan accordingly, said the Indian who was readying to enter the ring at the precise moments when the perturbing punches came from Gausha.
Coach GS Sandhu too said that Saturday was all about not messing up,nothing more. First days fights can be tricky,so we played safe.
Vijenders biggest strength in fact,has been his flexibility in accepting that opponents fight different rivals differently. He might have perfected the straight no-frills punch style at Beijing which led to the medal,when others had seemed more appealing in their styles. But when the Asiad champion meets Gausha,he knows it will be the same flexibility that will count in the ring. Whether he can counter the barrage like the American unleashed on Saturday remains to be seen. But with his first win,Vijender set the mould for remaining Indian boxers to make the opportunity count.
Jai Bhagwan cruises
London: Taking a cue from Vijender,fellow Haryana boxer Jai Bhagwan produced a dominating performance to storm into the pre-quarterfinals of the lightweight (60kg) category. In his maiden Olympics at the age of 26,Bhagwan,was in complete control of the bout from the onset as he thrashed his opponent Andrique Allisop of Seychelles 18-8 at the Excel arena. Bhagwan took control over the proceedings with identical scorelines of 7-3 in the first two rounds.
I had been looking forward to the Olympics for a long time and I am happy that I have started it well, said Bhagwan. He will now face Gani Zhailauov of Kazakhstan in the pre-quarterfinals.