The race is on, and the boxing stadium at Talkatora was the scene for one of the final laps on Wednesday. The race, as you might have guessed, is for second place on the medals table. The contenders — hosts India, and former colonial masters England.
The stadium was packed beyond capacity. If there was a seat, there were two people ready to grab it.
And the first Indian on show in the finals was Chhota Tyson, Suranjoy. Entering the ring, the little man from Imphal decided to do a somersault over the ropes. Unfortunately, he slipped on the landing and ended up on his bum, on the canvas. In the event, he got a walkover from the Kenyan, and took gold without a fight. “I would have loved to fight in front of this awesome crowd, but I am happy with the medal," he said.
It was a multi-national gathering with England, Northern Ireland and Sri Lanka all well represented. The Indians, of course, outnumbered the rest at least 20 to 1. And if there was a set of boxers who felt the crowd's anger, it was the Englishmen. This was not a reenactment of Lagaan, but the anger and jeering was to avenge the defeat of Vijender at the hands of Anthony Ogogo in the semifinal. Most Indians believe the Englishman, who failed to score a single point in his bout but won because the referee awarded two penalties against Vijender, didn't deserve his place in the final.
And so it conspired that Irishman Eamonn O'Kane, who took on Ogogo in the 75 kg final, was adopted by the Talkatora crowd. The ‘India, India’ chants were replaced by ‘Ireland, Ireland’, and O'Kane duly obliged. Lifted by the crowd, he creamed Ogogo and then went around shaking hands and saying namaste.
Manoj Kumar was the underdog in his final but fought a flawless bout, giving his English opponent no chance to score. “The setting is just incredible. Shaking hands with all the fans, especially all the pretty girls, made me feel like a king for a day,” a beaming Manoj said.
The last bout of the night featured the super heavyweight, Paramjeet Samota. Up against the giant Tariq Abdul of Trinidad, Samota looked like he might have a little trouble. But he didn't and his coach didn't feel the pressure either. “I arrived from Bhiwani for the final today without a ticket, and got one only at five in the evening. I thought I would be tense, but the lad fought so well, that I was dancing from the opening bell till the end.”