Tuesday, February 26, 2008

ASI boxers hope to book Beijing tickets in qualifiers

Suhrid Barua, Times of India, Pune February 25, 2008

Pune: Indian boxers have been riding a feel-good wave in recent times. The first two Asian Olympic boxing qualifying championships in Chicago and Bangkok confirmed Beijing Olympic berths for Anthresh Lalit Lakra and Akhil Kumar. Akhil dared to comprehensively beat Athens Olympic silver medallist Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand 21-11 en route to winning the bantamweight gold. With the third and final round of the Asian Olympic qualifiers slated to begin in Astana, Kazakhstan, from March 15, there are more Olympic berths up for grabs. Two pugilists from the Army Sports Institute (ASI), Pune — light flyweight (48kg) Sanjay Kolte and lightweight Thoi Thoi Singh are sweating it out, giving finishing touches to their preparations for the final-leg event.

The two young turks have confidence written all over them as they gird their loins for the Kazakhstan event. They are among a phalanx of seven boxers currently undergoing a three-week conditioning camp at the National Institute of Sports, Patiala. Kolte, who punched his way to the 2006 Doha Asian Games quarter-finals before his run was halted by Olympic bronze medallist Shiming Zou of China, is bristling with confidence ahead of the big event. “I have worked a lot on my fitness. I’m much more match-sharp now than I used to be before. I’ve tried to ensure I don’t carry any minor niggles going into the championship,” Kolte told TOI.

His confidence is soaring after winning the 48-kg gold in the recent Inter-Zonal Super Cup boxing championships in Akola. But the 21-year-old Pune lad, though, isn’t expecting a smooth sail in Kazakhstan. “The self-belief is there to go all the way (only the gold and silver medal winners book their tickets to Beijing). But I’ve a tough Turkmenistan boxer in my weight category to contend with, so it’s not going to be easy,” he sounded a note of caution.

Kolte reckons the eye-catching performance of Akhil Kumar in Bangkok will only spur the entire squad to scale new heights. “I do try to follow the way Akhil boxes. The manner in which he boxed in Bangkok has put all of us in the right frame of mind to give our best shot,” remarked Kolte, who won the bronze in the Xinjiang International boxing tournament in China last year. Like every boxer, Kolte is aware of his strengths but is willing to focus only on his shortfalls. “My strength is my single punch and I win lots of points employing that. But, it’s my combination punches that I’m working on,” added Kolte, who idolises legend Evander Holyfield for his bellicose boxing style.

Kolte’s team-mate Thoi Thoi Singh is expecting nothing but a finish in the medal bracket. “My build-up has been good. I honestly feel that I stand a good chance of sealing an Olympic berth, said Singh, who joined ASI in July, 2003. The 27-year-old pugilist is quick on his feet and is counting on his left hooks to do the trick for him in Kazakhstan. “I garner a majority of my points from my left hooks and I’m looking forward to utilising that to my maximum advantage,” he remarked with a splash of confidence.

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