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World Olympic Qualifying Tournament: Last throw of the dice for Indian men boxers

The Indian boxing contingent has always had a strong representation at the Summer Olympics.

Laishram Devendro Singh
Laishram Devendro Singh

The sight of only one men boxer turning out for India at the 2016 Rio Olympics will be disappointing, to say the least. The reason why seeing a lone pugilist fight in Rio will be frustrating for Indian boxing fans is because the boxing contingent has always had a strong representation at the Summer Olympics. It may be worth noting that India fielded seven boxers at the 2012 London Olympics and five at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The country had sent four boxers at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Will our worries of seeing just one boxer fight in Rio be laid to rest? The upcoming World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan from June 16-25 will be the last opportunity for the country’s boxers to redeem themselves. There will be high expectations from the likes of talented Laishram Devendro Singh and Vikas Krishnan to make the Olympic cut.

Devendro was expected to easily qualify from the Asian Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament held in China in March-April and he did not do that badly. He bagged a bronze medal by reaching the semifinals, however, the Manipuri lad did not qualify as the 49-kg category has only two qualifying berths – gold and silver medal winners.

This time around, Devendro will have his task cut out as again 49-kg category at the Baku event will have only two qualifying berths – gold and silver medal winners. Vikas Krishnan surprised us all by losing in the first round of the Asian Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in China and he will be extra hungry to set the record straight in Baku – the fact that the top five boxers make the Olympic cut makes it clear one thing – reaching the semifinals is a must for Vikas.

Both Vikas and Devendro will seek their second Olympic appearance.

There is one man who wants to quit international boxing on a high – Manoj Kumar – a former Commonwealth Games gold medalist – will look to seal a spot in the light welterweight category (64-kg) – the Baku event will be his last shot at Olympic qualification or else it will remain as his last international event – not a swansong he would want.

Manoj had failed to go past the first round at Asian Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in China and a second Olympic appearance must be well within his grasp.

Sumit Sangwan is another talented boxer, who was laid low by a prolonged hand injury, will be aiming for a second Olympic appearance in the 81-kg category, while Asian Games bronze medallist Satish Kumar will be hoping to make his Olympic appearance in the 91+ category.

Amritpreet Singh, who replaced Parveen Kumar who lost in the first round of the Asian Oceania Olympic Qualifying Tournament in China, won’t have it easy in the 91-kg category. Dheeraj Jangra (60-kg), Mandeep Jangra (69-kg) and Gautam Bhiduri (52-kg) will also find the going tough at Baku, especially Gautam as his weight category has two berths on offer – gold and silver medal winners.

Realistically, Indian can hope for at least three boxers to make the Olympic cut and Vikas, Manoj, Sumit and Devendro should be the strong contenders among them.

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)

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