Updated: February 1, 2018 8:06 am
Beating the favourite once is an upset. Beating him again, rather convincingly, is challenging the status quo. On Wednesday Manish Kaushik did just that, defeating world bronze medallist Shiva Thapa to reach the India Open lightweight final.
“When I beat him at the nationals last year, people may have thought it was an upset. ‘Shiva wasn’t at his best, uski body nahi chal rahi thi’. But now I have beaten him twice, so people will take notice,” said Kaushik, who lost the first meeting at the 2016 National Championships. “It was a very close decision which made me realise that I belonged here. I pushed an Olympian and Asian gold-medallist to the limit, and later defeated him. Confidence aaya ki inko hara sakta hun toh kisi ko bhi hara sakta hun.”
Wednesday’s performance will only reinforce the self-assurance. A motivated Thapa — who had earlier said that he is “not looking to settle any scores” — was quicker off the blocks but failed to land cleanly on his elusive southpaw opponent. Kaushik ducked, slipped, grabbed and counter-attacked, peppering Thapa with quick combinations, on his way to a unanimous verdict. Kaushik will take on Mongolia’s Battumur Misheelt in Thursday’s summit clash.
Thapa, who made the jump to 60kg last year after competing in the 56kg division for the majority of his senior career, was visibly smaller of the two boxers, and Kaushik believes his senior will also take time to get acclimatised to the division.
“I have been in 60kg since my junior days. For a guy making the jump, it takes a while because there’s a lack of confidence. He’s also more experienced so he has to think of people coming for his spot. Whereas I can afford to be carefree in the ring,” the 23-year-old said.
For Kaushik, being from “mini Cuba” had its advantages. For one, he didn’t have to look far for inspiration. “I will never forget watching Vijender Singh climb up the 2008 Olympics podium. But even before that moment, knowing that Jitender Singh of our village (Devsar Dham) had made it to Beijing inspired me to take up boxing.”
The image of Bhiwani boys Vijender, Jitender and Dinesh Kumar flickering on the television screen made getting the nod from his parents that much easier. “They only said, put your heart into it or else come and work on the fields,” Kaushik recalls. “They were uneasy when there was no federation. Youngsters didn’t want to enter the sport and seniors were leaving too. But once I got the job with the Indian Army, I feel I repaid their faith a bit.”
Next on the priority list are this year’s quadrennial events, and Kaushik believes he is the best lightweight for the job.
“I know there are things to be improved. I need to work on my power a bit. But I feel ready for the Commonwealth and Asian Games,” said Kaushik. “I am the national champion. I am the Indian finalist here. Of course I feel that I am number one. What’s a boxer without some confidence?”
PTI adds: Five-time world champion MC Mary Kom advanced to the 48kg final where she will take on Philippine’s Josie Gabuco. In the women’s draw, top seed L Sarita Devi (60kg) defeated fellow Indian Priyanka to set up a clash against Finland’s Olympic and world bronze-medallist Mira Potkonen. In men’s 69kg, Dinesh, upset Asian Games gold-medallist Manoj Kumar. He will take on Uzbekistan’s Bobo-Usmon Baturov.
World youth champion and top seed Shashi Chopra (57kg) was upstaged by compatriot Sonia in a rather bizarre contest in which both the boxers ended up being cautioned for being too defensive.
Eventually Sonia prevailed in a unanimous verdict for perhaps being a shade more attacking and accurate than Shashi. Sonia will face Filipino Nesthy Petecio in the final. Also ending with a bronze medal was former world silver-winner Sarjubala Devi (51kg). Sarjubala went down in a split 3-2 verdict to Mongolian Jargalan Ochirbat.
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