It will be ‘now or never’ for the Indian men boxers as they gird their loins for the crucial AIBA World Olympic Qualification Tournament beginning in Baku, Azerbaijan Thursday – their final opportunity to grab an Olympic berth.
For a country that had fielded seven boxers at the 2012 London Olympics, it has only Shiva Thapa making the cut in the 56-kg category so far. At the Baku tournament, India will count heavily on the experience of Laishram Devendro Singh, southpaw Vikas Krishan, Manoj Kumar and Sumit Sangwan – all of whom will be angling for their second Olympic appearance.
The likes of Laishram Devendro Singh (49-kg) and Gautam Bhiduri (52-kg) will have their task cut out as only the top two will make the Olympic cut in these weight categories – it effectively means that even reaching the semifinals will not ensure an Olympic berth. The task will be even harder for the likes of Amritpreet Singh (91kg) and Satish Kumar (+91kg) as they will have to win the gold medal to qualify. Surely, Amritpreet and Satish know they have a battle on their hands.
Five other pugilists – Dheeraj Rangi (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg), Mandeep Jangra (69kg), Vikas Krishan (75kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) should fancy their qualifying chances given the fact that each weight category has five Olympic berths for grabs.
“The boys are working hard and we are staying positive. We are hopeful about three-four boxers qualifying for the Olympics, anything above that will be really nice,” says Indian boxing head coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu before leaving for Baku.
One just hopes that the Indian men boxing contingent has a robust representation at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The squad: L Devendro Singh (49kg), Gaurav Bidhuri (52kg), Dheeraj Rangi (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg), Mandeep Jangra (69kg), Vikas Krishan (75kg), Sumit Sangwan (81kg), Amritpreet Singh (91kg), Satish Kumar (+91kg).