World championship bronze-winner Manish Kaushik (63kg) and Ashish Kumar (75kg) made the quarterfinals with facile wins to continue India’s strong showing at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Jeddah on Thursday.
Kaushik, also a Commonwealth Games silver-winner, had no trouble going past Taiwan’s Chu-En Lai in a unanimous 5-0 result to set up a contest with third seed Chinzorig Baatarsukh of Mongolia. Baatarsukh, who defeated Papua New Guinea’s John Ume in his last-16 bout, is a 2018 Asian Games silver-medallist besides being a two-time podium finisher at the Asian Championships.
In the morning session, Asian silver-medallist Ashish notched up a thumping win over fourth-seeded Kyrgyz Omurbek Bekzhigit Uulu, prevailing 5-0 in the lop-sided contest to set up a clash with Indonesia’s Maikhel Roberrd Muskita.
Muskita defeated New Zealand’s Ryan Scaife in his pre-quarter-final bout. Making the semi-finals would assure both Ashish and Kaushik of their maiden berths in the Olympics scheduled in July-August this year.
Ashish opened the day for India and produced a tactically nuanced performance. Up against a spunky rival, who he defeated in the Asian quarter-finals last year, Ashish played the waiting game to perfection, allowing Uulu to expend himself trying to connect.
Uulu swung his arms more than the Indian but it was Ashish who connected more accurately in the opening three minutes. The Kyrgyz boxer kept up the pressure in the second round as well and managed to land a couple of solid rights, which caught the Indian off-guard and led to scores being split.
But Ashish’s powerful and precise right hand served him well in the final three minutes as judges ruled unanimously in his favour.
Manish, on the other hand, put his power to good effect. The nimble-footed armyman hardly gave any opportunity to his rival and scored at will on counter-attacks.
He kept up the momentum in the second and third rounds and also displayed sharp reflexes while staving off relentless attacks from Lai. On Wednesday, fast-rising boxers Simranjit Kaur (60kg) and Sakshi Chaudhary (57kg) notched up hard-fought victories to enter the quarter-finals.
World Championships bronze-medallist Simranjit defeated Kazakhstan’s Rimma Volossenko 5-0, while former junior world champion Sakshi stunned Asian silver-medallist and fourth seed Nilawan Techasuep of Thailand in a split 4-1 verdict.