Boxers Jitender, Vijender India’s best hopes for Olympic medals (Preview)

August 19th, 2008 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 19 (IANS) Vijender Kumar and Jitender Kumar, who present the new face of Indian boxing, and possibly sport, get into the ring for their quarter-finals Wednesday. And that may be India’s last and best chance of a second - and maybe even a third - Olympic medal after a series of disappointments over the past few days.Save for performance from Saina Nehwal in badminton, there has been little to cheer for India since that moment of euphoria Abhinav Bindra provided for the Indian contingent by clinching a gold medal in men’s 10m Air Rifle event.

The 23-year-old Vijender squares up against 19-year-old Ecuadorian Carlos Gongora in the middleweight (75kg) category and Jitender, barely 20, in the flyweight (51kg) category meets the more experienced and three-time European champion from Russia Georgy Balakshin, who at 28 has seen a lot of action in his eventful career.

Both Vijender and Jitender hero-worship Akhil Kumar, who lost out in the quarterfinals of the bantamweight (54kg), to Moldovan Gojan Veaceslav. And if there is one lesson that both Vijender and Jitender would do well to learn, is to ensure they have a Plan B in place.

Akhil and the Indian team management for all their positive outlook were clearly out-thought as Veaceslav, was not only stronger than expected, but also had a very tight defence, which the Indian just could not penetrate.

Despite having realized that he could not land scoring punches, Akhil was unable to change his plan or strategy. As a result, he ended looking much weaker than he really was.

The Indian coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu admitted that Akhil’s defeat was a disappointment, because there were great hopes from him. “Yes, the two (Jitender and Vijender) were a little upset at Akhil’s loss, but there are ready to come out and give it all,” said Sandhu.

Vijender, whose Grecian looks have attracted international fashion magazines, comes to the Olympics with a morale-boosting win over 2004 Athens gold medallist Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan, who was also adjudged the Best Boxer of the Games.

Vijender, who fought in the light welterweight (69kg) in Athens 2004, shocked Bakhtiyar in a competition in May this year. Bakhtiyar is still in competition here and is in the other half of the draw.

Gongora for his part made the round of 16 at World Championships in Chicago last year and he also won a title in Romania earlier this year.

Vijender said: “The win over Olympic champion Artayev has given me a tremendous boost.”

Many believe that Jitender may become one of India’s best bets on the global arena over the next few years, but for the present, he runs into Balakshin.

Jitender like Akhil is an aggressive boxer and the Indian coaches would do well to equip with him an alternative plan if his usual ‘all out’ style does not work.

Jitender, whose opponent Balakshin is a very experienced boxer, has got over the defeat of Akhil and said: “I want to win a medal for Akhil.”

Meanwhile, coach Sandhu is making no comments on the upcoming fights. “I just can’t comment about tomorrow’s bouts,” he said. “What we thought was ours we lost (Akhil’s quarter finals) so I can’t say about next bouts but I only hope that we will win two medals.”

The coach did add that Vijender was in good shape and form for the fight against Gongora.

Yet, he quickly added: “There is no question of underestimating Carlos. At this level one just can not under estimate any opponent and as far as Carlos is considered he has been put in the sleeper category by the experts.” Sleeper pugilists are those who are capable of creating upsets.

In amateur boxing, where landing scoring punches is the key and a tight defence can often frustrate more aggressive and attractive boxers, a smart strategy will play a key role.

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