Star Indian boxer Vijender Singh and Manoj Kumar today made resounding start to their campaigns at the Commonwealth Games, winning their respective bouts with identical 3-0 scorelines, here.
Vijender punched his way to the pre-quarterfinals with a unanimous verdict over Andrew Kometa of Kiribati in the 75kg bout while Manoj beat Mokhachane Moshoshoe of Lesotho with the same margin in the 64kg category.
Vijender was fast in his movement in his first bout of the Games and played to a plan, emerging victorious without taking much risk. Vijender, 28, was cautious initially but went on the attack mode after getting a measure of his opponent. He lowered his guard and kept attacking.
A right hook in the third round and then a flurry of punches from Vijender towards the end rattled the uunfancied boxer from Kiribati. Two out of three judges gave 10-8 verdicts in favour of Vijender in both the second and third rounds, indicating his dominance over Kometa.
"First bout is always tough and I am happy I won it. I am hoping for the best and will go step by step. I am hoping to at least reach the final," he said after the bout. "Without headgear it is dangerous and injury may happen. Manoj Kumar was hit on the head (in the earlier bout) and so we have to be careful," he said. "I have to make some adjustments and it all depends on the opponent you are facing. I was moving well and overall I am happy about my performance. I will try my best."
On his opponent, Vijender said, "Kometa was a tough opponent and the first match is always difficult. I feel I boxed well and I'm looking forward now. Antony Fowler (of England) is a good boxer I'll be waiting for him. I hope to meet him in the semi-final or final."
"I am going to try my best to win the gold. I have bronze and silver already so I hope this time to reach the final and hopefully win." Manoj was also cautious in his opening round but then completely dominated the bout in the remaining two rounds. But, all the three judges who handed the decision in favour of Manoj gave a close 10-9 verdict in all the three rounds, indicating that it was a close fight.
Under the new rules of boxing, three judges will give their decision on who won the bout besides also giving round by points like 10-9 (close round), 10-8 (clear winner in the round), 10-7 (the boxer is outclassed) or 10-6 (this should never happen). Foreign coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez expressed surprise over the close fight decision by the judges. "Manoj should have got more points and they did not give points to Manoj. It was not a close fight. Manoj completely dominated the bout. But Manoj need to improve if he wants to go further in the tournament."
Fernandez, however, said that Manoj did not exert much as he need to preserve himself as it's a long tournament. "When you fight against weaker opponents, you have to take care that you don't injure yourself. Moreover, there is no headgear used in boxing. So you have to be careful and should not get injured early in the tournament." Asked about the impact of new rules, "It applies to every boxer, not to our boxers only," Fernandez said.