Olympic and World Championships bronze medalist Vijender Singh (75kg) gave a dominating performance despite being down with viral fever to thrash Sweden's Hampus Henriksson in his opening bout and enter the second round of the World Championships here on Thursday.
Vijender, who was the first Indian boxer to win a medal at the mega-event (a bronze in the 2009 edition), out-punched his rival 3-0 to make the last 32 to round off a third successive winning day for India.
The individual scoreline read 30-27, 30-26, 30-26 in favour of Vijender, who is aiming to make a strong comeback after being embroiled in a drug scandal, which denied him several weeks of training earlier this year.
"I am down with fever, cold and cough ever since I landed here but somehow managed to pull myself today. I am glad that I won but it's just the start," Vijender told PTI after his bout.
"I have been on medication for the last two days. Before today's bout my coaches told me that I should not feel weak mentally no matter how I was feeling physically. So, I just went in with a positive mindset and pulled off the win," he said.
National coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu also praised the boxer's performance. "Vijender gave an exceptional performance against a very tough boxer. The other guy was very aggressive but Vijender caught him with some good uppercuts, that broke him. Later, Viju connected some deft left hooks," Sandhu said.
Vijender has a tough bout next up as he will be facing European champion and world number seven Jason Quigley of Ireland. The 22-year-old Quigley is seeded fifth here and the duo will square off on Saturday. "Let's hope that I recover substantially by then and see how it goes," said Vijender.
It was a typically composed performance by the 27-year-old, a former world number one and the first Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal (a bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games).
"He (Henriksson) was aggressive but I gathered everything inside me in the first two rounds and the strategy worked as I broke him down with uppercuts," he said.
Vijender dominated all three rounds and managed to get unanimous thumbs up from the judges, who are evaluating the boxers not just for the number of punches connected but also their overall ring craft under the new 10-point system.
"Our boys have done well under the new rules so far. The absence of headguards has also not been an issue and they have in fact done better without the headguards," laughed Sandhu.
With this, three Indian boxers have cleared the first-round hurdle after winning their opening bouts -- Vikash Malik (60kg) and Asian Championships silver-medallist Mandeep Jangra (69kg) being the other two.
Five others -- Asian champion Shiva Thapa (56kg), Thokchom Nanao Singh (49kg), Sumit Sangwan (81kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Asian Games silver-medallist Manpreet Singh (91kg) -- have got byes. Of them Shiva and Manoj have been seeded fourth and sixth, respectively.
Tomorrow, two Indian boxers will take to the ring with Manpreet starting his campaign against Keddy Agnes of Seychelles. In the evening session, Manoj will fight his first bout against Fatih Keles of Turkey.