Rio de Janeiro: Indian boxer Manoj Kumar gave credit to his elder brother Rajesh for his success after winning his opening bout in the men’s Light Welterweight (64kg) category at the ongoing Rio Olympics.
Manoj stunned Evaldas Petrauskas of Lithuania by a split decision in the Round of 32 at the Riocentrio Pavilion here on Wednesday.
Up against the bronze medallist of the 2012 London Olympics, Manoj dominated all three rounds to carve out a 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 verdict and advance to the pre-quarterfinals.
“My elder brother Rajesh Kumar as coach taught me as much as he could. I have no God givent talent. It’s hard work over 20 years that has brought me here. If my fist has power, I will succeed in the next match too,” the 29-year-old from Haryana said after his bout.
Manoj displayed excellent technique and counter-punching skills to outfox the strong, aggressive Lithuianian. The Haryana pugilist utilsed his superior height to good effect, keeping his opponent at distance with sharp jabs and repeatedly penetrated Petrauskas’ defence with his excellent combinations.
“My opponent was strong, but my punches had power. I played according to his punches. I knew he was a hard opponent, so I didn’t go with any strategy to the ring. All strategy was made on the go,” he said.
The Indian will next meet Fazluddin Gaiznazarov of Uzbekistan in the Round of 16 on August 14. Gaiznazarov had outclassed Malonga Dzalamou of Congo by RSC (Referee Stopped Contest).
Gurcharan Singh Sandhu, the head coach of the Indian boxing squad, praised Manoj for his performance.
“The opponent was a power puncher, but Manoj kept him at long range. He wanted to move in close and deliver strong hits,” Sandhu said.
“Opponent is Olympic bronze medallist, and so Manoj performance was superb.”
(Hardev Sanotra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)