WBC Asian champion Neeraj Goyat was the lone Indian left in fray for an Olympic berth after he entered the semifinals as two boxers bowed out following first round losses in the International Boxing Association’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament for professional boxers in Vargas, Venezuela.
The 24-year-old Neeraj (69kg) defeated Greece’s Dimitrios Poulikos Tsagkrakos 3-0 and will be up against second-seeded German Arajik Marutjan, a former European Championships silver-medallist, in the semifinals on Thursday.
Neeraj will be assured of an Olympic berth if he wins the next bout but in case he loses, the Indian will have another chance of qualifying for the Rio Games through the box-off between losing semifinalists.
However, for Gaurav Bidhuri (52kg), who lost to Ukraine’s Maksym Fatych, and Dilbag Singh (81kg), who was beaten 1-2 by Moldova’s Petru Ciobanu, it was the end of the road.
The competition has 26 Rio Quota Places on offer -- three in every weight category except heavyweight (91kg) and super heavyweight (91+kg), out of which only the winners earn an Olympic spot.
The tournament features boxers from AIBA’s own professional events -- the World Series of Boxing (WSB) and AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) -- besides pro boxers from all over the world.
However, none of the big names in the pro circuit have made themselves available for the event, citing reasons ranging from fitness and a lack of prep-time, to the threat of sanctions by their promoters and licensing bodies like the WBO and the IBA.
Three Indian boxers -- Shiva Thapa (56kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (75kg) -- have booked their tickets to the Olympics through qualifiers for amateurs.