The Beijing Olympic trio of Vijender Singh, Jitender Kumar and Dinesh Kumar lost in the semifinals of the Asian Boxing Championship in Zhuhai, China, on Friday. Bringing joy to the camp were the little known Nanao Singh, Suranjoy Singh and Jai Bhagwan, who stormed into the finals to make it India's best ever outing in the event since 1994.
After the breakup of Soviet Union and the entry to the Asian fold of the powerful boxing nations like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, India's best performance was in Tehran when Raj Kumar Sangwan won gold. Since then, never did India have more than one boxer in the final.
Manipur's Nanao (48kg) thrashed Nyambayar Tugstogt of Mongolia 15-7. Since last year's Youth World Championship triumph, Nanao is yet to lose a bout. After graduating to the seniors last year, he won gold in the A.K. Mishra International tournament in Chandigarh and again at an invitational event in Kazakhstan before this championship.
Another boxer hailing from 1998 Asian Games hero Dingko Singh's land, Suranjoy (51kg) put up a gritty show against Olympian Ruenroeng Amnaj of Thailand to win 4-2. Jai Bhagwan (60kg) defeated a resilient Zhailuov Gani of Kazakhstan 7-2.
“I was expecting five in the final. Jitender was playing superbly and got a two-point lead in the first round. But in the second round he injured a finger going for a powerful punch and that cost him the bout. Vijender and Dinesh also fought well,” said chief national coach G.S. Sandhu.
Sandhu was all praise for Nanao and Suranjoy. “Both were trailing by a point in the first round but didn't lose focus and jumped back to snatch victory. Both have shown maturity especially Suranjoy, who won a close fight.”
About Jai Bhagwan, Sandhu added: “Nobody can doubt his calibre. He is one of the most talented boxers in the present lot. He took advantage of his long reach, attacking effectively and immediately pulling himself out of the opponent’s reach.”
Vijender blamed it on luck. “I was leading in the second round when the referee gave me a warning and my opponent was given a benefit of two points. I couldn't surpass him. I am happy that three from the contingent are in the final.” The defeated semifinalists got bronze medals.