Boxers feel they have it in them to win medals in Beijing

July 30th, 2008 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

By Avishek Roy
New Delhi, July 30 (IANS) Boxing is one discipline which the medal-starved country looking up to for that elusive metal. When five bravehearts land in Beijing, they know for sure that they are not there to fill numbers or return with the Olympian tag. They have a job at hand and they are confident that they are up to it. There have been many talented boxers over the years, but medals were hard to come by at the Asian Games, let alone Olympics. India have five gold medals from the Asian Games, legendary Hawa Singh winning two of them. India though have only one gold since 1982, Dingko Singh getting it in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games.

India narrowly missed a boxing medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when Gurcharan Singh was at a striking distance of beating Ukrainian Andri Fedtchouk for a semi-final spot.

There is reason to believe that India’s largest boxing contingent-ever can create history in Beijing.

Akhil Kumar (54), Vijender Singh (75), A L Lakra (57), Jitender (51) and Dinesh Kumar (81) have done exceptionally well in international events in the last few years, and their run-up to the mega event has been phenomenal. But, the ring at the Beijing Games will be different.

Akhil and Vijender are seen as the men who can deliver. Akhil certainly has the heart and punch to succeed. The Bhiwani boxer has enough inner strength and the ability to fight as his resilience to bounce back from a career-threatening wrist injury last year has shown.

He came back with a bang winning the ‘best boxer’ award at the Asian Olympic qualifying tournament in Bangkok in February. The Indian outpunched Athens Olympics silver medallist Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand in the third round as he booked his qualifying berth for Beijing. Akhil’s impressive CV also contained a gold medal from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games.

Last Olympics in Athens Akhil lost in the first round, but he says he is better prepared for Beijing.

“I know if I am to win an Olympics medal, it has to be in Beijing. This is my best chance and I will give everything. I am well prepared and the comeback has given me lot of confidence,” says Akhil.

For Akhil, the training in Germany and his post-injury stint with physio Heath Matthews have done wonders to his fitness and psyche.

Vijender, too, had peaked at the right time. He won silver at the last Commonwealth Games and was one of the two bronze-winning boxers at the Doha Asian Games. But his most stunning achievement came in the President’s Cup in Chinese Taipei where he beat Athens Olympics gold medallist Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan. His gold winning performance in a strong field at the Chemistry Cup in Germany showed Vijender is truly prepared for the battle.

“The win over Olympic Champion Artayev was the turning point in my career. It has instilled a belief that I have the ability to take on anybody in the ring,” says Vijender.

Jitender, Lakra and Dinesh also hold a lot of promise.

The trio of Vijender, Dinesh and Jitender booked their tickets to Beijing at the second Asian qualifiers in Kazakhstan while Lakra qualified after reaching the quarterfinals at the World championship in Chicago last year.

“We have been doing well in international competitions. Our boys have beaten top boxers and so we are optimistic that we will bring home medals from Beijing,” says Col Muralidharan Raja, secretary-general of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation. Many followers of the sport agree with the assessment.

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