The former Asian Games champion Vikas Krishan Yadav is expected to face a tough challenge on his debut at the AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) competition when he takes on Uzbekistan’s Israil Madrimov in a middleweight (75kg) bout in Tashkent on February 26.

The 2014 Asian Games bronze medallist is targeting a quota at the Olympics which will be held in Rio de Janeiro later this year. APB offers 20 Olympic quotas across several weight categories. The tournament has two Olympic quotas for the middleweight division.

Vikas, ranked sixth in the world, won gold at the recent South Asian Games. He will be the first Indian boxer to feature in the APB, where participation is by an AIBA invitation only.

Vikas’ opponent, Madrimov, won silver in the welterweight (69 kg) category at the 2014 Asian Games. The Indian pugilist will be accompanied by his coach Jagdeep Hooda and will travel to Uzbekistan on February 24. The 24-year-old is currently training at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala under chief national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.

A victory over Madrimov will allow Vikas to move into the next round of the APB whereas a loss will bring his campaign to an end.

The opportunity to test himself against some of the world’s best boxers was the reason Vikas said he took the decision of competing in the APB.

“Over the last couple of months, it has been difficult to find quality sparring partners and it is important to prepare very well if I have to win a quota for the Rio Olympics. The APB stint will allow me to fight against some challenging opponents and that will ensure that I test myself thoroughly and iron out any flaws in my technique,” the Haryana pugilist was quoted as saying in a statement on Tuesday.

The southpaw also asserted that exposure in the APB would serve him well during the Asian Olympic qualifiers.

“Pro boxing is a different ballgame altogether. You need to be aggressive, you need to score points and you need to ensure that you stick to your plan. Fighting in the APB will allow me to actually work on certain aspects that I have incorporated into my boxing post the World Championships and the quality of my opponents will ensure that I do not let my guard down, which will be beneficial for me going into the Asian qualifiers,” Vikas said.

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