Former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) stood just one win away from making the cut for Rio Olympics after advancing to the quarterfinals of the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Qualifying Tournament, in Baku on Tuesday.
While Manoj got the better of Bulgaria’s Ismetov Ayrin Smetov 2-1, Sumit stormed past Sandagsuren Erdenebayar of Mongolia 3-0.
Both of them will have to win their quarterfinal bouts on Thuursday to be assured of an Olympic berth.
Manoj was the first to take the ring and he rallied to beat Ismetov in his pre-quarterfinal contest.
The Indian fought back after losing the opening round against an aggressive rival.
“Manoj endured a very tough bout but to his credit, he not just hung in there but also fought back brilliantly. His opponent was a very sharp puncher but he sustained a cut in the second round which slowed him down. Manoj took advantage of it and came back,” national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu told PTI.
The former Asian bronze-medallist will now face Tajikistan’s Rakhimov Shavkatdzhon, who defeated Bahrain’s Williams Rashield in his last-16 stage contest.
Sumit, on the other hand, hardly broke a sweat to out-punch Erdenebayar in his prequarterfinal bout.
Sumit will next be up against Russia’s Petr Khamukov, who got the better of Slovakia’s Denis Lazer.
“Sumit fought with a lot of calmness. He applied his brain and made sure that he never got too close to his opponent. It was a very dominating performance by him,” Sandhu said.
Late Monday night, former World Championships bronze-medallist Vikas Krishan (75kg) also advanced to the pre-quarterfinals with a 3-0 win over Japan’s Takahashi Makoto.
The Indian will face Georgia’s Kvachatadze Zaal late Tuesday night.
The tournament has 39 qualifying spots up for grabs — two in the 49kg category, five each in 52kg, 56kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69kg, 75kg and 81kg, and one each in 91kg and +91kg.
Over 400 boxers from more than 100 countries are vying for these slots in the final qualifying tournament for amateur boxers.
India have not sent any entry in the 56kg category as Shiva Thapa has already qualified for the Rio Games during the Asian qualifiers in March.