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Vijender strolls into semis
- Haryana boxer first Indian to enter last four at world meet

New Delhi: Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh made history when he assured himself of at least a bronze medal in the World Championships by reaching the semi-finals on Thursday.

The middleweight pugilist from Haryana became the first Indian boxer to reach the World Championships semis when he outclassed Ukraine’s Sergiy Derevyanchenko 12-4. He is assured of a bronze medal even if he loses his next bout to Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan on Friday night.

Going by Vijender’s current form, the Indian will be the favourite against Atoev, a former world champion in the light heavyweight category. Vijender had tamed the Uzbek boxer in the Asian championships in China earlier this year, when Atoev made a comeback to the middleweight category.

“I won’t be surprised if Vijender wins the gold,” said an elated Indian chief coach G.S. Sandhu. “He has been doing very well. He is calm and composed and never gets rattled under adverse conditions.”

Vijender was also confident about making the final. “In the Olympics, I lost in the semi-finals. This time, I should be able to cross that hurdle,” he said.

In the bout against Derevyanchenko, the Indian boxer was hesitant in the first round. As the two boxers traded punches, the first round ended on an even note with both Vijender and Derevyanchenko winning a point each.

“Yes, I was cautious in the first round,” said Vijender later. “I never had an opportunity to meet this Ukrainian boxer before, so I decided to study his skills.”

Vijender, however, was the dominant person in the second and the third rounds, winning points at random. Using his trademark straight left punches and upper cuts, the Olympic bronze medallist thrashed his rival throughout the next two rounds.

So overwhelming was Vijender’s domination in the final round that he was given a 6-0 verdict by the judges.

“Boxers from the former Soviet Union countries enjoy huge reputations in the international arena. But I wasn’t bothered about that,” said Vijender. “I played my natural game and was sure of victory from the beginning.

“I am on cloud nine... It’s a feeling that cannot be described in words. I have broken another jinx for India and I am very happy,” the 23-year-old, who won India’s maiden Olympic medal in boxing, a bronze in Beijing last year, said.

Vijender said he was happy that he could prove his detractors wrong. “Many of my critics said that I would fade into oblivion after my Beijing success. My performance in Milan is the right reply for all of them.”

Vijender, who comes from village Kaluwas in the Bhiwani district of Haryana, started his career in the welterweight category.

In the 2006 Commonwealth Games, Vijender reached the final by defeating England’s Neil Perkins but went down to South Africa’s Bongani Mwelase in the title round.

He later shifted to middleweight, winning a bronze in that category at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.

In the ongoing world championships, India sent a nine-member contingent but most of the pugilists could not go beyond the first round hurdle. While Vijender has reached the semi-finals, Dinesh Kumar crashed out in the light heavyweight quarter finals.

The other Indians in the fray were Thokchom Nanao Singh, Suranjoy Singh, Jitender Kumar, Akhil Kumar, Jai Bhagwan, Manoj Kumar and Manpreet Singh.

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