In heartening news for India, Manoj Kumar Kaltagdia and Vikas Krishnan became the second and third boxers to qualify for Rio Olympic Games after reaching the semifinals of International Boxing Association’s World Qualifying Tournament in Azerbaijani capital Baku on Thursday. Manoj made the grade in the 64 kg category and Vikas joined him later, when he qualified in the 75 kg category. In March 2016, Shiv Thapa was the first boxer from India to qualify in the 56 kg category after winning the silver medal in Bantamweight during the Asian Qualifying tournament at Qian’an in China. The qualification tournament at the Azeri capital could still throw up two more Indian names before its completion on June 25. L Devendro Singh in 49 kg category and Sumit Sangwan in 81 kg, are still in with qualification chances and the next two days’ results will be crucial. However, with Vikas taking the 75 kg quota place, qualification hopes of celebrity boxer Vijendra Singh have evaporated in thin air.
Indian pugilists Manoj Kumar and Vikas Krishnan have brought cheers to Indian sports fans with fine performances at Baku’s AIBA World Qualification Tournament. It all began on Thursday with Manoj Kumar reaching the semifinal of the 64 kg bout by defeating Tajikistan’s Rakhimov Shavkatdzhon in the quarterfinal. Manoj had earlier beaten Bulgaria’s Ismetov Ayrin Smetov 3-0 and looked good to steal the Rio Olympic quota on Thursday. The Indian duly kept his tryst with the 2016 Olympic Games with a 3-0 victory over Shavkatdzhon. Manoj’s was a deserving case for someone, who didn’t have any sponsors and also because the 29-year old pugilist had been highly underrated. Manoj wanted to prove a point since of all Indian boxers regarded as Olympic contenders, Manoj was the only one, who didn’t find a place in the Sports Ministry-backed Target Olympic Podium (TOP) Scheme. For the second Olympic Games on trot, Manoj has qualified to fight in his category.
When Vikas Krishnan won the 75 kg quarterfinal bout 3-0 against Korea’s Lee Dongyun, he not only earned himself the Olympic quota place but also shut the doors on celebrity boxer Vijender Singh. Vijender had been eyeing the Olympic berth for himself, after the AIBA allowed professional boxers to compete in Olympic Games. But Vikas’ qualification has put paid to all ambitions that Vijender might have had. In his message from Manchester, Vijender said though he was disappointed to miss Olympic participation himself, he wished all qualified Indian boxers the very best in their medal quests. Vijender was a bronze medalist of 2008 Beijing Olympics and since he turned pro, he jeopardized his qualification chances for Rio. In the meanwhile, Vikas Krishnan wants to make amends for his controversial loss in the 2012 London Games after he qualified on Thursday by beating the Korean boxer. The Indian had a hard second-round battle with Japanese Takahashi Makoto and once he won that, he became convinced about clinching the Olympic quota place.
With the Baku tournament coming to an end on June 25, two more Indian boxers stand in line for Olympic quota places. Devendro Singh Laishram in 49 kg and Sumit Sangwan in the 81kg are tantalizingly close to securing Olympic berths for themselves. While Devendro is one win away, Sumit’s Rio Chances are dependent on a different factor. In the quarterfinal, Devendro defeated South Africa’s Bandla Sibusiso 3-0 and although he is assured of a medal, he will need to reach the final to earn the Olympic quota because only 2 places are remaining in the 49 kg category. Therefore, Devendro must beat Spain’s Samuel Heredia in the semifinal to realize his Olympic dream. In Sumit Sangwan’s case, he lost the 81 kg quarterfinal 0-3 against Russia’s Petr Khamukov but can still go to Rio if the Russian wins the gold.