Star Indian boxer Vijender Singh (75kg) was handed out a tricky draw today as he starts his quest to better his Beijing Games bronze medal winning feat against Danabek Suzhanov of Kazakhstan in the men's boxing competition at the London Olympics here tomorrow.
The Bhiwani boxer, who put Indian boxing on world map after clinching the bronze in Beijing four years ago, will have a tough task at hand as he aims for a medal of a different hue in his record third Olympic appearance.
The boxing competition, which gets underway at the Excel Arena here, will also see teen sensation Shiva Thapa (56 kg) taking on Mexican boxer Oscar Valdez Fierro.
World Championship bronze medallist Vikas Krishan (69kg) has been seeded third and he is also the only Indian boxer to get a bye.
Five-time world champion MC Mary Kom (51kg) will open her campaign against Polish boxer Karolina Michalczuk in women's boxing which makes its Olympic debut on August 5.
"The draw is tough, in fact very tricky but we are keeping our fingers crossed because of the good forms of our boxers," chief boxing coach G S Sandhu told PTI.
Vijender is a former world number one and a World Championship bronze-medallist, while the 18-year-old Shiva is the Asian Olympic Qualifiers' gold-medallist and this duo carries a lot of expectations for medals. An unprecedented eight Indian boxers -- seven men and for the first time a woman -- are in the British capital faced with sky-high expectations.
India's sole representative in women's boxing, Mary Kom is among the strongest medal contenders. The fact that she has to win just two bouts to be assured of a medal only adds to the high expectations from her. And she is not short of motivation either as the 29-year-old could well bid adieu to the ring if she goes on to get a medal and cap a glittering career in which highs have far exceeded lows.
Among the men, Vijender would also look to script history of his own by winning a medal in back-to-back Olympics. The pin-up boy of Indian boxing came through an agonising qualification process during which he missed two chances before finally making the cut and he is determined to be remembered as the one who brought most medals rather than the one who made most appearances at the Olympics.
Besides Vijender, there is Vikas, a fellow Haryanvi who has already emulated his bronze at the World Championships. The 19-year-old, who started in the 60kg division, won an Asian Games gold medal (2010) before taking the massive risk of jumping two divisions with less than a year left for Olympics.
The gamble seems to have paid off as the former youth World Championships gold-medallist has made the transition effortlessly and the proof of that was a bronze at the senior World Championships last year.
Joining him will be L Devendro Singh (49kg). The 20-year-old Manipuri could well be the dark horse of the team as he made the Olympic cut at no less than the World Championships where he out-punched some strong rivals before eventually losing in the quarterfinals.
Another teen to watch out for is Sumit Sangwan (81kg), who seems to have come from nowhere to displace the much-established Dinesh Kumar and make the light heavyweight division his own with a gold at the Asian Olympic qualifiers.
The 20-year-old Haryana-lad is a strong bet in a category in which India has never quite done well in the past. Former Asian Championships silver medallist Jai Bhagwan (60) and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manoj Kumar (64kg) are the seasoned campaigners in the group and the duo would look to make the most of their biggest break at the international level.
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