Haryana lad Manoj Kumar in the 64kg welter weight category made a huge difference for the Indian contingent by defeating two times Olympic bronze medalist Evaldas Petrauskas of Lithuania.
Five feet eight inches tall Manoj tried to use his long reach as much as possible throughout the bout and scored at regular intervals to maintain his lead. Stockily built the Lithuanian tried vigorously to make inroads to Manoj’s defense but using good foot work Manoj kept him away. Manoj connected couple of body punches in the first round and also used left right combination punches through the defenses of his opponent. Petrauskas made numerous efforts to break the defense of the Indian but was unsuccessful except on one occasion when he managed to land a powerful right on Manoj’s left jaw. The end of first round saw the Indian having a slender lead in a split two-one decision amongst the judges.
The second round was an exclusive show of the Indian who crafted beautiful combination punches along with jabs and straights. It gave a feeling that Manoj will floor his opponent with a powerful right but it did not happen as the experienced Lithuanian boxer evaded such onslaught. In this round Manoj carried the bout to his opponent time and again and earned a unanimous verdict of three to nil in his favour from the judges.
The third and the final round saw Petrauskas, the Lithuanian boxer going all out to clinch the bout in his favour by knocking off his Indian counterpart. The Indian, understanding the move, stayed away but landed effective scoring blows on the face and body of the Lithuanian. The final score rightly came in favour of Manoj by a split two-one decision of 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.
It was a marvelous performance by Manoj who clinched the bout in his favour from a double Olympic medalist with a superior performance. The Indian camp did not have high hopes of Manoj winning but he proved it to be otherwise by bringing in all his experience and skill to out point his opponent.
Manoj will face Uzbekistan boxer in his next bout who won just before his own bout. As of now, the boxers are doing well and two out of the three have advanced to the next round. Shiva Thapa in the 54kg Bantam weight category will throw his challenge to his Cuban opponent in the evening on Thursday.
It was not a good day for the Indians at Rio Olympics as some of the medal expectants lost, but some excellent performance from unexpected quarters brought the smile back. Bombayla Devi and Deepika Kumari from archery and Manoj from boxing have once again boosted up the medal hope.
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