India's male boxers must step it up at the Olympic qualifiers this week - Hindustan Times

India's male boxers must step it up at the Olympic qualifiers this week

ByAvishek Roy, New Delhi
Feb 26, 2024 10:59 PM IST

World championships medallist Mohammad Hussamuddin is back after injury. Indian men have not qualified in any of the seven divisions

Nine Indian boxers qualified for the Tokyo Olympics and India should look to at least match that number at the Paris Olympics. The women boxers booked four Olympic berths at the Hangzhou Asian Games, but the male boxers could not secure any quota spots, raising concerns over their level of preparedness.

Mohammad Hussamuddin reacts after a match.(Twitter) PREMIUM
Mohammad Hussamuddin reacts after a match.(Twitter)

Two more Olympic qualifiers remain. The first -- a world qualification tournament in Busto Arsizio, Italy from February 29 -- will provide a big opportunity. In men's competition, berths are available in all seven weight categories, while the women boxers will look to seal spots in the remaining two divisions.

Unlike the Asian Games where only the gold and silver medallists in men got Olympic quotas, a semi-final berth will ensure Paris qualification in Italy. However, being a world qualifier, the competition will be tough and the task is cut out for the Indian boxers.

The return of world championships medallist Mohammad Hussamuddin (57kg) from a knee injury is a boost, but others need to step up. Deepak Bhoria (51kg) and young Nishant Dev (71kg) -- a worlds bronze medallist -- will have to step up. At the Asian Games, both lost to technically skilful Japanese boxers. Deepak, competing in 51kg, fought well against

Tomoya Tsuboi, the reigning 2021 bantamweight world champion, before losing 1-4 on points. He cannot afford any more slip-up with Tokyo Olympian Amit Panghal in the weight division hot on his heels ahead of the second Olympic qualifier in May. If Deepak qualifies in Italy, he will go to Paris as the quota belongs to the boxer who wins it.

"I have tried to work on variation in my attacks after the Asian Games loss and I am looking forward to getting the quota this time," Deepak said. “There is no doubt that there will be the world's best, but we are well prepared. In Hangzhou, the number of quotas were fewer and in Italy there will be more on offer, so that will be an advantage.”

Having missed the Asian Games due to a knee surgery, Hussamuddin is back after a six-month gap. He made an impact at the national camp where he was way ahead of his competitors in the assessment by the coaches.

"It didn't seem like he was coming back from injury as he was on top in every assessment test," head coach CA Kuttappa said.

Nishant, who burst onto the scene at the 2021 world championships with some upset wins, has shown good progress but needs consistency.

Among others, Asian Games bronze medallist Narender Berwal (+92kg), six-time Asian Championships medallist Shiva Thapa and national champions Lakshya Chahar (80kg) and Sanjeet Kumar (92kg) will be in the fray.

"The Asian Games result was disappointing for the men's team and they will have to improve their performances if they want to win quotas here (in Italy) because there will be some world class boxers," former international Venkatesan Devarajan said.

The women's team will have high hopes from world bronze medallist Jaismine Lamboria (60kg) and youth world champion Ankushita Boro (66kg) to win the remaining quotas. Two-time world champion Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Olympic bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain (75kg), Preeti (54kg) and Parveen Hooda (57kg) secured berths at the Asian Games.

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