Debutant Akash Kumar (54kg) secured India’s first medal at the ongoing AIBA World Men’s Boxing Championships here on Tuesday after advancing to the semifinals with a superb win over former Olympic silver-medallist Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela.

Narender Berwal (+92kg), five-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), Nishant Dev (71kg) and Asian champion Sanjeet (92kg) bowed out of the competition, leaving Akash as the lone Indian in fray now.

Akash will be up against 19-year-old Makhmud Sabyrkhan of Kazakhstan, a three-time Asian gold-medallist at the youth level.

The 21-year-old Akash, who is a reigning national champion, prevailed 5-0 with a fabulous performance which was a perfect mix of powerful punching and great showmanship.

The fearless youngster scored on counter-attacks with a non-existent guard and taunted his opponent, all this while staying out of his range with terrific pace and footwork.

“My strategy was to attack from word go, I took the first round with that and in the second, I had to protect my cut as well, while going forward, which I managed to do,” Akash said after his win in the quarterfinal.

“His performance has earned him a lot of respect from his opponents. For a debutant, he showed tremendous confidence against boxers who were far more experienced,” added India’s High Performance Director Santiago Nieva while talking to PTI.

Later in the evening, five-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa (63.5kg) lost against Turkey’s Kerem Oezmen in the quarterfinals. Thapa was aiming to become the first Indian male boxer to claim two medals at the world event, having fetched a bronze in the 2015 edition. But the Turkish teenager was dominant at the start and managed the bout well after to win by an unanimous decision.

In +92kg, Narender Berwal was defeated by Azerbaijan’s Mahammad Abdullayev in the quarterfinal. It was a hard-fought bout from the Indian, who kept going hard till the end but Abdullayev rode on a strong start to win by an unanimous decision.

Nishant Dev (71kg) then took on Russia’s Vadim Musaev but came up short in a gruelling bout. The 20-year-old Nishant Dev put up a solid fight in the last eight battle but lost by a split decision 4-1 against Russian who got the nod from four judges 29-28 even though Nishant had a 30-27 from one judge.

Reigning Asian champion Sanjeet (92kg), who was a quarterfinalist in the event’s last edition, went down by an unanimous decision against Italian Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine.

The gold winners at the showpiece will walk away with a prize money of $100,000. The silver medallists are to be given $50,000, and both bronze-medallists will be awarded $25,000 each. The total prize purse stands at a whopping $2.6 million.

India are being represented by its reigning national champions across weight categories.

List of previous Indian Male Boxers who have won medals at World C’ships:

1. Vijender Singh Bronze (Milan,2009)

2.  Vikas Krishan Bronze (Baku, 2011)

3. Shiva Thapa Bronze (Doha 2015)

4. Gaurav Bidhuri Bronze (Hamburg, 2017)

5. Amit Panghal Silver (Yekaterinburg, 2019)

6. Manish Kaushik Bronze (Yekaterinburg, 2019)

— via BFI

Akash, a product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, lost his mother to a lung infection in September and competed in the national championships unaware of the tragedy.

The world championships is the Services boxer’s maiden senior international tournament, which makes the performance so far all the more special. His father died more than a decade back after initiating him to boxing and his brother is in jail since 2017 in connection with a murder case.

“I dedicate this medal to my late mother and father and my coaches. I competed in such a big tournament for the first time in my life and I feel so proud to have done well,” Akash said.

Determined not to be defined by his difficult circumstances, Akash became only the seventh Indian male boxer to secure a world championship medal.

His opponent Rivas had originally won a bronze in the Rio 2016 Olympics but his medal was upgraded to silver after the original second place finisher failed a dope test.

Inputs from PTI