2011 throws up new boxing stars as London Olympic Games beckon

New Delhi: A record number of them booked Olympic berths in the very first qualifying event as Indian boxers rounded off yet another superb year, holding out promise for more than one medal at the world`s biggest sporting extravaganza next year.

The year did not feature many big events but wherever they competed in, Indian pugilists continued their ascending march in the international arena with commanding performances, the best of all being the World Championships where relatively unknown names came into spotlight.

A 19-year-old Vikas Krishan (69kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and another teen L Devendro Singh (49kg) booked their London berths at the mega-event, which was the first Olympic qualifying event for boxing.

The quartet sensationally beat some tougher opponents to fulfill the qualification criteria of at least reaching the quarterfinals but it didn`t stop at just that as Vikas went a step further to fetch a bronze medal at the event in Baku.

The Haryana-boxer ensured that like the 2009 edition, when Vijender Singh (75kg) got a historic bronze, India had a medal to show at the World Championships.

The performance was undoubtedly the highlight of the year for Indian boxing as the pugilists spent most of the 2011 in the national camp in Patiala aside from a few training-cum-competition trips to countries such as Cuba.

"No one expected four of them to qualify for the Olympics from the World Championships because it had never happened before. In the last World Championships before the Olympics, we had just one boxer making the cut. So, it was a fantastic performance this time and certainly the highlight the year for Indian boxing," national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu told reporters while assessing the year gone by.

But it was a forgettable 2011 for the biggest name in Indian boxing, Vijender Singh. The middleweight boxer entered a new phase on the personal front by tying the knot in May but faced disappointment inside the ring.


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