Vijender makes up for Akhil and Jitender’s losses (Boxing, Overall Lead)August 20th, 2008 - 11:24 pm ICT by IANS
Beijing, Aug 20 (IANS) Vijender Singh made up for the disappointment of Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar not making it to the medal round by ensuring at least the bronze by becoming the first Indian boxer to enter the Olympic semi-finals at the Beijing Games here Wednesday. A little over an hour after Jitender Kumar had fought valiantly but lost his flyweight quarter-final bout, his Bhiwani stable-mate Vijender pummelled Ecuadorian Carlos Gongora 9-4 to the to enter the semi-finals.
Vijender made sure India got first-ever boxing medal and also made it the first occasion that an Indian contingent will return home from an Olympic Games with more than two medals.
In the semi-finals, Vijender will clash with Cuban Emilio Correa Bayeaux, who edged out Uzbek Elshod Rasulov 9-7 on points and may well fancy his chances against the 23-year-old Cuban.
The other semi-final is between Alfonso Blanco Parra of Venezuela against Darren Sutherland of Ireland.
This weight category has already the 2007 World Champion Matvey Korobov of Russia being put out in the round of 16 by Artayev Bakhtiyar, a 2004 Athens Gold medallist in one category below (69 kg, welterweight). Bakhtiyar, who also won the 2007 World Championships bronze, himself lost in the quarters to James Degale of Britain 5-11.
Though Akhil Kumar lost in the bantamweight quarter-finals a day earlier, it is clear that Indian boxing has indeed come of age.
Three boxers in the quarter-finals and one of them making it to the semi-finals will indeed give not only Indian boxing a shot in the arm, but also Olympic sports in India.
After Vijender entered the semis, Jitender said: “We do have a medal from boxing, but with a little bit of luck we could have had three.” How true!
After Akhil’s loss when the absence of an alternate plan was most apparent the Indian boxing think-tank came out better prepared this time around. And the boxers showed they were well armed, too.
Both Jitender and Vijender scored well and used a lot of straight scoring punches, instead of playing to the gallery, attempting a knockout as Akhil tried Tuesday.
Both Jitender and Vijender defended when it was required and the later in particular kept a good tight guard, too, and did not give away needless points.
“I can make it to the finals,” said an excited Vijender, who then added that he wanted to make up for the disappointment of Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar.
“I knew there was no point in taking chances and we had a strategy for the bout. Now we will plan our semi-final also. Akhil and my coaches will help me and we will work together, just as we have all this time,” he added.
Jitender had earlier in the evening lost 11-15 to Russian Georgy Balakshin in a high-scoring fight.
Vijender, whose Grecian featrures have attracted some international fashion magazines to do photo-features on him, won each of his four rounds. He took more than a minute to get onto the scoreboard with his first scoring punch, a right upper cut, but then added one more in the round to go 2-0 up.
Vijender used his left-handed jabs and powerful uppercuts to open up Gongora’s defence.
In the second round, Vijender first kept Gongora, the Copa Romana champion, at bay for the first minute and then picked his third point. It was then that the Ecuadorian managed his first point. Thus far, he kept trying to find space, but Vijender did a great job of combining good defence with attacking, something which Akhil had failed to do.
Even Jitender at times seemed to leave his guard open and allow a few points to slip away.
When the second round ended, Vijender was 4-2 up and into the third, he built on that in style and made it 7-2.
In the final round, the Indian was smart not to allow Gongora close and protected his lead, which was smart strategy. He finally won 9-4 and threw his arms up in jubilation at the end of the fight.
Against Balakshin, a three-time European champion, Jitender did hold his own for a large part of the bout. The Indian lost the first round 1-2, but was then level 5-5 in the second round, at the end of which the Russian was ahead only by a thin margin 8-7.
It was the third round, which made the crucial difference. A 6-2 score for Balakshin opened a huge gap and that ultimately meant Jitender went into the final round at 14-9.
Despite a valiant attempt the Indian boxer managed only two points and the Russian picked one more for a 15-11 verdict.
Jitender had not disgraced himself. “I gave it all, but it was not to be. I am still proud of the way we fought.”
Nothing could be truer and as later Vijender showed the boxers had indeed worked as a team.