New Delhi: Their contingent already reduced in size from what it was four years ago in London (eight boxers to three), the challenge facing India’s boxing representatives at the Rio Olympics grew even stiffer following the release of the official draws on Thursday.
Shiva Thapa, who will be appearing in the Olympics for the second time, will be up against an old nemesis in the form of Robeisy Eloy Ramirez of Cuba. Southpaw Ramirez, who won the Gold in 2012 at London in Men’s flyweight category, will fight it out with Thapa in the Bantamweight category.Thapa and Ramirez have a rivalry that goes back to Youth Olympics days of 2010, when Thapa lost to Ramirez in the finals to settle for a silver. Two months before that fight, Thapa had lost to Ramirez in the 54kg final of the World Youth Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan.
However, Thapa has come a long way since his London days and is expected to pack a punch against the best of the world.In the 64kg category, the 29-year-old boxer from Haryana, Manoj Kumar will face Lithuania’s Evaldas Petrauskas. The 24-year-old Lithuanian could prove to be a difficult proposition for Kumar as he too comes to the ring with an Olympic medal already to his name.Petrauskas won the bronze in London Olympics in 2012 in the 60kg category where he lost to Korea’s Han Soon-Chul 18:13 in the semi-final.
India’s Kumar is presently world number six in the Welterweight division and has a lot of experience under his belt which will put him in good stead against the Lithuanian.Bhiwani boy Vikas Krishan, who was India's one of the brightest hopes in London Olympics, would consider himself slightly luckier than his country mates as he will be seen fighting 18-year-old Charles Conwell of the United States in his first bout of the Olympics.Krishnan would hope to stave off the memories of a controversial first bout in London which saw his opponent Errol Spence declared winner despite losing 11-13 at the end of the contest.
Spence was awarded four points because of unpunished fouls committed by Krishan by the judges to the Indian’s dismay.After Vijender Singh’s Bronze in Beijing and Mary Kom’s Bronze in London, the expectations will naturally be high from the three men to bring home at least one medal back.