With the fancied Vijender Singh ousted after a shock loss,it is now left to Asian champion Suranjoy Singh and two other unexpected finalists to ensure that India’s best-ever boxing medal haul in the Commonwealth Games gets a touch of gold in the summit bouts here on Wednesday.
India are assured of seven medals in the Games,surpassing the six (a gold,two silver and an equal number of bronze) the country won in the previous edition of the quadrennial event in Melbourne.
Four of the medals this time are confirmed bronze because Amandeep Singh (49kg),Jai Bhagwan (60kg),Dilbag Singh (69kg) and Vijender (75kg) lost their respective semifinal bouts on Monday.
The biggest blow to the team,which was unbeaten till the quarterfinal stage,was Olympic and World Championship bronze-medallist Vijender’s stunning 3-4 loss to England’s Anthony Ogogo after another favourite and defending champion Akhil Kumar had lost in the quarterfinals.
What added to the heartbreak was the fact that the world number one didn’t take a single blow from his rival,who scored through twin warnings that the Indian got — first for hitting the Englishman on the back of his head and the second for holding him.
A protest was lodged by the hosts but the result was upheld and it is now upto Suranjoy (52kg),Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91kg) to lift the spirits after Monday’s disappointment.
Suranjoy faces Kenya’s feisty Benson Njangiri but given the fantastic form the diminutive Manipuri has shown,he can be considered a good bet for a gold.
The tempo-boxer,nicknamed ‘Chhota Tyson’ by his peers,is all aggression mixed with some caution whenever he takes the ring and often leaves his rival gasping for breath with swift counter-attacks and sublime foot-movement.
“I don’t like talking much between bouts,I like to talk with my punches. Let’s keep the talking for until after I win the gold,” he said ahead of the finals.
The 23-year-old,who has won six successive gold medals since March 2009,would be gunning for his seventh on Wednesday and it would hardly be a problem for him to finish on top.
Next up for India on Wednesday would be Manoj who has been an unexpected success story given that he was in wilderness for two years due to a wrist injury.
The unassuming Haryana-lad has quietly gone about his job even as Akhil and Vijender hogged the limelight.
Turning 24 on Tuesday,Manoj would be up against Bahamas’ Valentino Knowles and a gold would be a perfect birthday present in front of adoring home fans.
“If you want to see how high I can fly just ensure that the sky keeps going farther and farther,” says the boxer,whose technique and composure have been strikingly impressive especially against defensive opponents.
Samota,on the other hand,relies on sheer power and his imposing frame to intimidate rivals. Described as a ‘Gentle Giant’ by coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu,he is not much talked-about despite being a Commonwealth Championship gold medal winner but has delivered the goods so far.
Samota is up against Trinidad’s Tariq Abdul Haq and if he wins,the Haryana-boxer would get India’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal in the super heavyweight category,in which previously the country has had just a bronze (2006,Melbourne) to show for.
In the other exciting bouts tomorrow,Sri Lanka’s Manju Wanniarachchi would be aiming to clinch the first boxing gold for his country in 72 years when he faces Welshman Sean McGoldrick in the bantamweight (56kg) finals.
The 18-year-old McGoldrick accounted for Olympic bronze medallist Bruno Julie of Mauritius who beat Indian star Akhil in the quarterfinal stage.
European champion Paddy Barnes,who ousted India’s Amandeep Singh in the semis,will fight it out with defending champion Jafet Uutoni in the finals of the light flyweight (49kg) category.
In the middleweight 75kg,in which Vijender was expected to clinch gold,the summit clash will feature Ogogo against Northern Ireland’s Eammon O’Kane.
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