Glasgow, Jul 31: Olympic and World Championship bronze-medallist Vijender Singh led the charge as five Indian boxers, including two women, assured themselves of medals at the 20th Commonwealth Games by advancing to the semifinals of their respective weight categories here.
Vijender (75kg), Mandeep Jangra (69kg) and L Devendro Singh (49kg) came up with dominating victories in the men’s competition, while L Sarita Devi (60kg) and Pinki Jangra (51kg) entered the last four of the women’s event. Vijender, the 2008 Olympic bronze-medallist, outclassed Trinidad and Tobago’s Aaron Prince, winning 3-0 on points in a unanimous decision.
“I changed my tactics midway in the bout. In the first round I was trying to play a bit defensively. But he kept on coming and so I had to change my tactics and become aggressive,” said the former World Championship bronze-medallist. “It is all about doing right things during the bout. I took some punches from my opponent but it was all about boxing. You get hit. I am getting better and hope I win gold,” added the former world number one.
The first round was a bit subdued with both the boxers trying to get a measure of each other. Vijender was the more defensive of the two in the opening three minutes. In the second round though, Vijender picked up pace and caught his rival off guard with a flurry of punches for which Prince had no response.
A straight jab and then a right hook from Vijender rattled Prince. The tempo continued in the third round and Vijender won comfortably in the end. On his comfortable win, Vijender said, “It was an open fight but my opponent was also very tough. I never underestimated him but I never thought I was ever in any real danger either.”
Asked about the semifinal, he said, “Once you get to a semi-final in any competition, you really have to be at your very best and you prepare for that the way you would prepare for the gold medal fight. “I’m going to be up against Connor Coyle (Nigeria) and that will be a very big challenge for me, but I am feeling really great.”
World No. 3 Devendro outclassed Aqeel Ahmed of Scotland to advance to the medal round. Mandeep, on the other hand, literally walked into the last four after his rival, Daniel Lewis of Australia, was declared unfit to fight due to a cut above his eye. The experienced Sarita Devi and young Pinki Jangra led the women’s charge for India in the boxing ring.
Sarita, the 32-year-old former Asian champion from Manipur, came from behind to outsmart Charlene Jones of Wales 3-1 in a hard-fought quarterfinal bout. She will next take on Mozambique’s Maria Machongua in the semifinals on Friday. Sarita Devi, after her lightweight quarter-finals victory, said, “I want to win this for India and for my son. I have not seen him for five months now because I have been training with the Indian team and I miss him so much. During pregnancy I was 85kg and after my baby was born my husband gave me his full support.”
On assuring herself of a medal, she said, “I want to dedicate my medal to all the people of India.” Placed sixth in the overall standings, India’s medals tally now stands at 41 with 10 gold, 19 silver and 12 bronze. Pinki, who had beaten Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom in the national trials to make it to the Indian CWG team, outclassed her Papua New Guinea opponent Jacquiline Wangi in a unanimous 3-0 decision by the judges in the semifinal bout.
Mandeep, the Asian Championships silver-medallist, who has won two rounds so far in the event, will now be up against Northern Ireland’s Steven Donnelly. In another quarterfinals of men’s 91Kg category, India’s Amritpreet Singh suffered a 0-3 loss to Stephen Lavelle of Scotland.