The Indian boxing contingent at the Rio Olympics 2016 received a massive big boost after two of its three pugilists stormed into the second round of their respective weight categories. Vikas Krishan first prevailed over an American opponent in the middleweight category (75-kg).
Then it was the turn of Manoj Kumar to outbox much-fancied 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Evaldas Petrauskas of Lithuania in the light welterweight category (64-kg) on Wednesday night.
Manoj is the most experienced boxer in the three-member boxing squad, and for someone who has won lavish praise from two-time bronze medallist and national boxing selection committee chairman Gopal Devang for his tremendous work ethics, this 29-year-old Haryana pugilist, who has been on the international stage for close to a decade now, appears to be in the best form of his life.
“It was a good bout; I won the first two rounds while Evaldas won the third round. It was far from being an easy bout for me. I’m really pleased to cross the first hurdle,” Manoj says in an informal chat from Rio.
The 2011 and 2013 World Championship bronze medallist, who is coached by his elder brother Rajesh Kumar, now faces a tough opponent in Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan. Fazliddin is the 2015 World Championship silver medallist and 2015 Asian Championship silver medallist.
“I had played against Fazliddin at the 2015 Asian Championship in Bangkok and lost to him. I know he is a formidable opponent but I will be ready for him. Reputations don’t matter in Olympics, it’s your performance that counts. I have a few days to prepare for that bout and will try to come out all guns blazing,” Manoj oozes confidence.
The rangy Indian pugilist is determined to go the distance. “No bout is easy in Olympics. We have to fight hard and the best will survive. I have the blessings of my well-wishers and supporters. Keeping my fingers crossed,” he signs off.