New Delhi: A nine-member Indian boxing team lead by Commonwealth Games silver-medalist Laishram Devendro (49 kg) and Asian Games bronze-medalist Vikas Krishan (75 kg) left for the AIBA World Olympic qualifiers at Baku, Azerbaijan, on Sunday.
Indian team is expected to do whatever is required to earn more Olympic spots in what may well be the last qualifier before the 2016 Rio Games. So far, Indian have earned only one spot — thanks to Shiva Thapa in the 56 kg category, who booked his Rio berth at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in March.
The Baku event, starting June 16, has 39 qualifying spots up for grabs — two each in the 49kg and 52 category, five each in 56kg, 60kg, 64kg, 69kg, 75kg and 81kg, and one each in 91kg and +91kg.
Besides, Devendro and Vikas, Commonwealth Games silver medalist Mandeep Jangra in the 69 kg slot, CWG gold medalist Manoj Kumar for 64 kg, Gaurav Bidhuri for the 52 kg division are also in the nine-member team.
But India's best bets, apart from Devendro and Vikas, would be Sumit Sangwan (81kg), a former Asian gold medallist, who has been laid low for some time owing to injuries.
After the Baku event, there will be a separate qualifier for professional and semi-professional boxers in Venezuela in early July. It will be the final Olympic qualifying event before 2016 Rio Games.
India had sent eight boxers in the 2012 London Games, but this time, it has become a big disappointment with some big names failing to qualify for the quadrennial event.
Only one Indian boxer — Shiva Thapa (56kg) — has qualified for the Olympics so far and except for Vikas (75kg), who has made the cut for the final Olympic qualifiers via the AIBA Pro Boxing route, the tournament in Azerbaijan is the last chance for the rest of the squad.
Team: L Devendro (49 kg) Gaurav Bidhuri (52 kg), Dheeraj Rangi (60 kg), Manoj Kumar (64 kg), Mandeep Jangra (69 kg), Vikas Krishan (75 kg), Sumit Sangwan (81 kg), Amritpreet Singh (91 kg), Satish kumar (+91 kg).