NEW DELHI: India can be proud of its bench strength in boxing, a discipline which has grown significantly in terms of performance and stature since Vijender Singh's bronze in the Beijing Olympics two years ago.
Now, with the promise shown by World youth championship gold winner Vikas Krishan (60 kg) and silver medallist Shiva Thapa (54 kg), the country can hope for a better medal haul from the London Games in 2012.
The fact that two Indian boxers reached the finals and two others — J. Bhaskar (51 kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81 kg) — made the quarterfinals of the World youth meet in Baku (Azerbaijan) speaks a lot about the steady rise of the country.
In terms of medals, India (one gold and one silver) was behind Cuba (three gold, one silver and one bronze) and Azerbaijan (two gold and one bronze).
“The competition was really tough as boxers from 109 countries participated in the championship. Vikas had to box six bouts for his gold, while Shiva won four bouts before losing in the final. From this, one can imagine the depth of the competition,” coach G. Manoharan told The Hindu after the Indian team's arrival here on Wednesday.
Manoharan, a quarterfinalist in the Moscow Olympics, showered praise on the medallists. “Vikas's strength is his speed and hard blows. Plus, his movements are swift. Shiva has a strong right punch, he is an intelligent boxer,” he said.
“The result reflects the four months of hard work the boys put in at the coaching camp in Pune,” the coach said.
Vikas, a product of the Jagdish Singh-run Bhiwani Boxing Club (BBC), agreed that the encouraging result was due to the quality practice the boxers went through.
The 18-year-old, who won five of his six bouts by huge margins, said the final was the toughest fight. “Others were like Indian boxers, so I tackled them easily. The finalist (Evaldas Petrauskas of Lithuania) was shorter and relied on power play. I found it a little difficult to handle him,” Vikas said frankly.
The gold medallist admitted that Shiva's defeat in the final also played on his mind. “If he had won, I would have been more confident. But once he lost, I felt a little nervous before my bout,” said Vikas, a World cadet champion in 2007 and a current junior Asian champion.
A Hyder Aliyev Cup gold medallist and a World cadet bronze winner last year, Shiva was considered a strong gold medal prospect. However, the 16-year-old Assamese injured his fist in the semifinal and could not give his best in the final against Cuban Robeisy Eloy Ramirez Carrazana.
“I had a lot of hopes. It was disappointing (to pick up an injury before the final). I fought the final as I thought I should give myself a chance,” Shiva said.
Manoharan expressed confidence that both boxers would return gold medals in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) to be held in Singapore in August. “I will advise Shiva to take a 20-day break. I am sure he will be all right for YOG,” the coach said.