The pinup boy of Indian sports, Vijender Singh, does not need to do anything spectacular. All he needs to do is step into the ring, and the rest is done by his dangerous punches.
On Friday at the Foshan Gymnasium, Santosh Kumar's 64kg bout against Kazakhstan's Daniyar Yeleussinov would have come as a dampener after the Indian lost 1-16 to a boxer who wanted to finish off the contest before regulation time. It's another thing that Santosh could take that kind of punishment and still hang around till the end.
But once Vijender, the 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze-medallist, stepped into the ring, Indian hopes were reignited and the Bhiwani boxer did not disappoint. The champion, who suffered the disappointment of settling for bronze at the Commonwealth Games after the referee disqualified him, was on song.
Thanks to Vijender and the women's 4X400m quartet's efforts, India's gold medal tally of 14 surpassed their previous best --- 13 at the Asian Games in 1982.
Vijender kept probing Uzbekistan's Atove Abbos, one of the most decorated boxers in the 75kg category with two World Championship titles (in 2007 and 2009) and the Asian Championship title in 2007, with his left glove and attacked with his fearsome right to earn points. As the bell went off signalling the end of the first round, Vijender had already shown his technical superiority. His long reach and uncanny knack of keeping out of harm's way was his forte as the 25-year-old Bhiwani pugilist managed to land punches from a distance and still get away in time to thwart Abbos's counter.
Though he has always said that winning the Beijing bronze is his biggest ever achievement, he might change his mind after the Guangzhou exploit.
"Defeating a world champion and that to with a 7-0 margin is not easy," said Vijender, after the bout, "but today it was my day. My coach told me not to go by Abbos's reputation and use my height and reach to advantage," said Vijender, whose philosophy is, "the going may always be tough, but believe in yourself. Be dedicated and focussed and never compromise on your training".
Abbos is one of the most decorated athletes from Uzbekistan, even awarded the 'Order of El-yurt humaniti' (Respect of the nation) by a Presidential decree, but he was simply too ordinary to pose any challenge. He also got a last-round warning from the referee for getting too aggressive in a bid to land a sucker punch.
The 91kg bout between Manpreet Singh and Syria's Mohammad Ghossoun ended with the former losing 8-1. The 22-year-old silver-medallist at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, was no match for Ghossoun, who kept chalking up on points in the second round when he landed crushing punches. A gold and two silver on Friday. Indian boxers have also returned the best haul at the Games.