Indian boxers pack a punch in packed Talkatora
New Delhi: Indian boxers opened their campaign in style with Amandeep Singh (49kg) and Manoj Kumar (64kg) advancing to the pre-quarterfinals, following thumping wins in their opening bouts of the CWG.
While Commonwealth Championships gold-medallist Amandeep defeated Kenya's Peter Warui 6-2 for the second successive time this year, Manoj was so dominant against Sirrera Leone's Daniel Lassoyo that the referee had to award the bout to the Indian midway through the second round when he was leading 17-1.
Amandeep will next face Rawanda's Haziza Matusi and Manoj will now square off against Gomotsang Gaasite of Botswana.
Crowds may not have exactly warmed up to the other Games events but boxing pulled in the spectators on the very first day so much so that even the announcement of an Indian referee or judge got as big a cheer as an Indian boxer's arrival.
And the men who took the ring did not disappoint either by putting on a power-packed performance to ensure that the crowds would look forward to more when established stars such as Vijender Singh (75kg) and Akhil Kumar (56kg) start their campaigns in the next couple of days.
Amandeep was the first boxer to step in and against an opponent he had defeated as recently as in the Commonwealth Championships in March, the Indian was confidence personified.
Unruffled by Warui's often wild attack, Amandeep kept his cool and tactfully exploited the Kenyan's weak defence.
It was a narrow 2-1 lead in the opening three minutes but Amandeep ensured that he never let it slip with his strong left-hand blows in the next two rounds to notch up a comfortable win.
"Since I had played him before, I knew that it was easy to get past him if I get a lead, which I got in the first round. He was down and tried to attack too much. I am quick on my feet and that also helped," Amandeep said after what he described as a rather "easy" first day in office.
"The crowd made it all the more easy for me. It was amazing to fight in front of such supportive spectators," he added, when asked whether the fans contributed to his win.
If Amandeep was about tact and composure, Manoj took the attack to Lassoyo with a combination of right uppercuts and body blows.
Such was his dominance that Manoj was up 9-1 after the very first round. The Haryana-boxer, for whom it is a comeback of sorts after being in wilderness for more than two years due to a wrist injury, didn't let the tempo slip and kept up the pressure even in the second round.
Just about a minute before the end of the second round, Lassoyo faced his second count-out of the bout and the referee decided that the Indian was just too good for his hapless rival.
"No opponent is weak or strong. I gave my best and got the result and I am glad to have done it," he said.
"I am thankful to the crowd for spurring me on. That's what you call home advantage, it was fantastic," he added.
Coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said he was pleasantly surprised to see judges awarding points on uppercuts and body blows which had almost stopped fetching any score in the recent past. He also expressed surprise at the massive first day turnout of fans for the boxing competition.
"I am glad that uppercuts and body blows did the trick for Manoj and points were awarded for them besides the powerful left jabs he managed to connect. And of course the crowd, we have never fought on the first day of a competition with a crowd like this. It was very emotional out there," he said.
Apart from the Indians, the loudest applause was reserved for the Pakistanis with 19-year-old Britain-based Haroon Iqbal (52kg), who is the younger boxer of professional boxing star Amir Khan, getting massive support from the home fans.
Iqbal, who is representing Pakistan after failing to get the nod for the English team, defeated Sunday Elias of Tanzania amid vociferous cheers from the Indian fans. He was leading 12-1 when the referee awarded the bout to him after Elias suffered a head injury.
"I have never fought in an atmosphere like this. It is simply out of the world. Thank you so much India. I wasn't expecting this," he said.