Indian boxer Manoj Kumar stunned Evaldas Petrauskas of Lithuania by a split decision in the Round of 32 of the men’s Light Welterweight (64kg) category at the Riocentrio Pavilion here.
Up against the bronze medallist of the 2012 London Olympics, Manoj dominated all three rounds to carve out a 29-28, 29-28, 28-29 verdict and advance to the pre-quarterfinals here on Wednesday.
The Indian will next meet Fazluddin Gaiznazarov of Uzbekistan in the Round of 16 on August 14. Gaiznazarov had outclassed Malonga Dzalamou of Congo by RSC (Referee Stopped Contest).
“My opponent was strong, but my punches had power. I played according to his punches. I knew he was a hard opponent, so I didnt go with any strategy to the ring. All strategy was made on the go,” Manoj said after his bout.
“My elder brother Rajesh Kumar as coach taught me as much as he could. I have no God givent talent. It’s hard work over 20 years that has brought me here. If my fist has power, I will succeed in the next match too,” he added.
Both boxers were aggressive right from the start. Despite being much shorter than Manoj Petrauskas ultra aggressive style and his raw power did cause some problems for the Haryana pugilist.
Manoj utilsed his superior height to good effect, keeping his opponent at distance with sharp jabs and repeatedly penetrated Petrauskas’ defence with his excellent combinations.
Manoj’s excellent defence and counter-punching style coupled with his superior meant that the Lithuanian was finding it difficult to penetrate his defence and was forced to resort mainly to punches to the body.
Petrauskas’s attempts to beat Manoj’s defence by repeated rushing him and hoping to land with his jabs were met with effective counter-attacks by the Indian.
Petrauskas, however, did manage to hurt Manoj in the closing stages of the first round as he landed with a strong right that caught him off-balance. After the first round, the judges ruled10-9, 10-9, 9-10 in favour of the Indian.
The second round followed a similar script with Manoj peppering his opponent repeated with sharp jabs and dominating the proceedings which saw all three judges awarding the round to him.
The Lithuanian came out swing in the third and final round while Manoj became a little defensive in order to preserve his lead. Petrauskas did much better to take the with identical 10-9 decisions all three judges, but it did not prove to be enough.
Gurcharan Singh Sandhu, the head coach of the Indian boxing squad, praised Manoj for his performance.
“The opponent was a power puncher but Manoj kept him at long range. He wanted to move in close and deliver strong hits,” Sandhu told reporters.
“The opponent is an Olympic bronze medallist, and so Manoj’s performance was superb.”