The young and fearless Vikas Krishan tamed the dragon in its lair, beating defending champion Hu Qing of China 5-4 in front of a vociferous crowd, in the final of the 60-kg category here on Thursday.
It was the first boxing gold for India since Dingko Singh's 56-kg crown in Bangkok in 1998.
It was a huge accomplishment by the 18-year-old lad from Bhiwani who joined the elite band of boxers — Padam Bahadur Mal (1962), Hari Singh (1966), Hawa Singh (1970), Kaur Singh (1982) and Dingko — who have won the Asian Games gold in boxing.
In a tricky fight, Krishan showed courage to stick to his game plan of having an air-tight defence backed by a sharp punch. In fact, it was he who opened the scoring in the first round before the Chinese responded with an equaliser towards the end of that round.
The Chinese was quick with his left and took a 3-1 lead in the second round, but Krishan hung on to get another point. It was then that the Chinese delivered a punch below the belt, prompting the referee Bedaly Alymkulov of Kyrgyzstan to give a standing ‘count' for Krishan in order to recover and a warning to the Chinese. The Indian got two penalty points in the process.
With his score jumping to 4-3 after the two points were added to his account for the warning, Krishan further tightened his defence to completely frustrate the Chinese.
With 10 seconds left in the third and final round, there was a flurry of punches from both sides and both registered a point each. Krishan was leading 5-4 when the final bell rang. The gold was won against all odds by a boxer who was competing in his first international event at the senior level.
“Today is the best day of my life. I am very happy,'' gushed the young man, understandably proud about his achievement.
Asked about the punch below the belt, Krishan said he was a boxer and not an actor, promptly dismissing speculation that he might have overreacted. “My opponent threw the punch and he should know. I knew, and the referee knew. The fans also saw it,'' said Krishan.
Krishan said he was confident that he would clinch the gold despite the strong crowd support for the Chinese and added that he could feel some support for him too, even if it was only about 15 per cent.
In a mysterious turn of events, Krishan alone attended the press conference for the medallists, but refused to read anything into it. “The public greeted me. That was very good,'' said Krishan.
Though he had problems facing a southpaw, Krishan was quite solid in his approach and tackled a final with a competence of a seasoned professional. This prompted the national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu to term the effort “superb''.
Krishan had conceded only four points in all in his previous four bouts, and had not conceded a point in the semifinal which he won 7-0. He had scored 27 points along the way.
Cuban coach B.I. Fernandez, who has been associated with the Indian team for more than a decade, was quite pleased with Krishan's courageous performance and expressed his admiration with a big grin even as he rushed to prepare Dinesh Kumar for the 81-kg final.
Dinesh had to settle for the silver as he found the two-time Asian champion and the middleweight champion in the last Asian Games, Elshod Rasulov of Uzbekistan, too strong.
After opening with a 1-0 lead in the first round, the Uzbek raced to a 6-2 lead in the second and ended up with a 10-4 scoreline, scoring at will with a series of punches that brooked little resistance.
With three more finals featuring Santhosh Kumar, Vijender Singh and Manpreet Singh scheduled for Friday, the Indian boxing contingent which has already collected one gold, one silver and four bronze, has a lot to look forward to.
Keywords: Asian Games 2010