Glasgow: Led by Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh, Indian pugilists stole the limelight on the ninth day of the competitions with four of them storming into the finals of their respective weight categories in the boxing event of the 20th Commonwealth Games here Saturday.
Star boxer Vijender produced yet another dominating performance against Connor Coyle of Northern Ireland in the men`s middleweight (75kg) in an unanimous 3-0 verdict by the judges to book a place in the final and lead an Indian charge on the penultimate day of boxing competitions.
Mandeep Jangra (men`s 69kg), Laishram Devendro Singh (men`s 46-49kg) and L Sarita Devi (women`s 57- 60kg) also boxed their way to the finals while Pinki Rani (women`s 51kg) lost her semifinal bout to settle for a bronze.
Vijender continued with his aggressive style of boxing which has been his trademark style throughout the competition, forcing his opponent to defend most of the time.
Vijender got identical 10-9 scores from the three judges in the first round. He was able to land a left hook onto the Irishman in the second round. Another right jab followed and Coyle went defensive and Vijender again earned identical 10-9 scores from all the three judges.
The third round did not have much action but Vijender was the clear winner with all the judges giving yet Another identical 10-9 scores.
Asked later if it was an easy fight, Vijender said, "There is never an easy fight and I don`t underestimate my opponents. I will now prepare for the final bout."
Mandeep, on the other hand, fought his way back in a remarkable fashion after trailing in the first two rounds of his semifinal bout against Steven Donnelley of Northern Ireland.
Mendeep was trailing at the end of the first round with the three judges giving identical 10-9 scores in favour of the Irishman. The Indian recovered a bit in the second round with two judges giving 10-9 scores in his favour.
Mandeep, however, stormed back in a fine fashion in the final round with the three judges giving identical 10-9 scores in his favour to win the semifinal bout in a split 2-1 verdict.
"It`s all about getting the gold medal now. I know Scott Fitzgerald (the other finalist) will be a very difficult opponent, but boxing is as much about heart as anything else, and I believe I have the biggest heart of all," Mandeep said later.
He said he would like to emulate his idol Akhil Kumar, who had won a gold in 2006 Melbourne Games.
"I have always been inspired by Akhil and I felt he was in my corner when I was fighting there. He won the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games at Melbourne in 2006 and I will be looking to match that achievement in Glasgow.
"When I imagine Akhil with me in the ring, it gives me an extra edge. Sometimes you have to dig deep to get the victory and that was the case here," he said.
In the men`s lightfly weight (46-49kg) category, Devendro played true to his aggressive self as he outclassed Ashley Williams of Wales in a thrilling contest to book a place in the final.
22-year-old Devendro won a 3-0 unanimous verdict against his opponent in a bout which kept the packed crowd on the edge of their seats.
The Indian was the dominant of the two boxers while the Welshman was left to defend most of the time. Devendro played in his characteristic fashion attacking from the word go and landed two full-blooded left hooks on Williams in the first round.
In the second round, the Manipuri sent a ferocious left and right on the Welshman who fell on the floor on the impact of the punchs. A dazed-looking Williams, however, got up and to his credit kept on coming all the time despite the incessant blows he got from the Indian.
All the three judges gave identical 30-27 30-27 30-27 points in favour of Devendro.
After his win, Devendro said he wanted to finish the bout as soon as possible.
"It was a high tempo bout and I had wanted to finish it as soon as possible. But he kept on coming. I am happy that I am through to the final. I will now prepare for the final," said Devendro, who got a hug from his elder sister L Sarita Devi, who also just won her semifinal bout.
Coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said that Devendro kept himself under control in the bout against a tough opponent.
"The best thing about Devendro today was that he kept his control against a tempo boxer who kept on coming. He scored points even while keeping his defence tight. After the second round we did not coach him anything because we wanted him to relax so that nothing untoward happens in the final round," said Sandhu.
In the women`s competition, Sarita punched her way into the final of women`s lightweight (57-60kg) category after defeating Maria Machongua of Mozambique in a lop-sided contest, here today.
Sarita, a former World Championships silver medallist, completely dominated her semifinal bout as she landed her punches onto her opponent almost at will. The ferocity of the 29-year-old Manipuri was such that her Mozombique opponent tried to hide herself by holding on to the body of the Indian.
Sarita got an unanimous 3-0 verdict with the three judges giving 40-33 40-32 and 40-34 scores in her favour in the four rounds of two minutes each.
Sarita later said that she was amused to see her opponent trying to hide her head instead of boxing.
"She was hiding under me and I thought this woman does not want to do boxing. So I laughed during the bout," she said.
"This is the first time women`s boxing is there in the Commonwealth Games and I want to win the gold. So I have to prepare well for the final," she added.
Pinki, however, lost a close semifinal bout against Michaela Walsh of Northern Ireland to settle for a bronze in women`s 51kg category.
Pinki, who had beaten Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom in the national trials to make it to the Indian boxing squad, gave a valliant fight but could not pack enough punch against a taller opponent.
Pinki lost the bout 0-2 after the Kazakhstan judge gave a 38-38 score to the two boxers in the eight-minute four round contest. The other judges from Canada and Hungary gave 40-36 and 39-37 in favour of Walsh.