Indian boxing took another firm step forward as Commonwealth Games champion Manoj Kumar beat the London Olympics bronze medallist Evaldas Petrauskas of Lithuania with a split 2-1 decision, on points, in the first round of men’s light welterweight category here on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old Manoj handled the crafty opponent with explosive punches in the first two rounds. He got the scores 30-27 in his favour in the second round.
In the third round, the 24-year-old Petrauskas, the Youth Olympics champion and World junior championship bronze medallist, was able to find his way through with the punches, but he had conceded far too much ground to be able to catch up.
Manoj did receive some punches, especially in the third round when two of the three judges voted in favour of the Lithuanian boxer, but he negotiated the strong opponent with considerable expertise.
“He was a hard boxer and had a power punch. But I have 20 years of hard work behind me,” said Manoj.
Coach Gurbax Sandhu said: “It was a superb performance from Manoj against a high quality opponent. He deserves all credit for fighting so well.”
Into the pre-quarterfinals, his second entry after the London Games, Manoj said that he would fight with the same confidence and energy against Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan, the fifth seed who had beaten him in the Asian championship.
The Uzbek, a silver medallist in the World championship in 2015, won a technical knock-out against Divali Forele Malonga Dzalamou of Congo.
“I don’t study the opponent much in videos. I keep an open mind and act according to the tactics of the opponent. If you have a plan, and if it fails, you may be in deep trouble,” said Manoj.
India’s Shiva Thapa (56kg) bowed out of the Olympic Games after being out-punched by fourth-seeded Cuban Robeisy Ramirez in the opening round on Thursday.
The 22-year-old, competing in his second Olympics, lost 0-3 in a one-sided contest in which he also ended up sustaining a cut above his left eye.
The nimble-footed Cuban displayed fantastic footwork and put his jab to good use even in defence against the Indian.
In the third round Ramirez dictated terms with his lethal jabs leading to Shiva facing a standing eight count.