Krishan Vikas made history on Wednesday (29) when he became the first Indian to win three Asian Games boxing medals.
But the nation’s women, devoid of the legendary five times world champion “Magnificent” Mary Kom, will go home empty-handed for the first time since their sport was introduced in 2010.
The 2010 gold medallist in Guangzhou, Vikas won a bronze four years ago and had to draw on all his experience in Jakarta after suffering a nasty cut over his right eye early in his middleweight (75kg) quarter-final against China’s Erbieke Tanglatihan.
India’s last woman standing, flyweight Sarjubala Devi, could not emulate Kom — who won gold in the same 51kg division four years ago — as she lost on unanimous points to China’s Chang Yuan.
Kom is skipping this year’s Games to concentrate on November’s World Championships in Delhi.
Vikas had to dig deep and produce a strong finish to edge a 3-2 split decision and guarantee at least a bronze medal.
“It’s quite satisfying to come through that and be the first Indian to win three medals,” Vikas told AFP. “Especially as I suffered a serious injury. Yeah, I’m very happy.”
The 26-year-old fought brilliantly on the counter for the last two rounds as he protected his rapidly swelling eye.
“I hit him with some hard shots. But with my eye injured I was not able to get in close and had to keep my distance,” said Vikas. “Without that cut I would have beaten him 5-0.”
Vikas has a tougher task ahead if he wants a shot at a second Asian Games gold to add to his Commonwealth Games title won earlier this year in Australia.
Lying in wait in the semi-final is big puncher Abilkhan Amankul of Kazakhstan, who produced the performance of the day to outclass Taiwan’s Kan Chia-wei.
Kazakhstan were the dominant boxing force at the last Asian Games, winning six golds, two silver and two bronzes in Incheon.
But they have punched uncharacteristically below their weight in Jakarta with Amankul just their second boxer to reach the medal bouts.
– ‘He was smart’ –
Amankul was mightily impressive in dismantling Kan, who did well to last the distance after a 30-25 battering on all five scorecards.
Filipino 2016 World Youth Champion Carlo Paalam, 20, pulled off the best win of his senior career when he rallied to take a 4-1 split decision against another Kazakhstani, Temirtas Zhussupov.
Light flyweight (49kg) Paalam was delighted at securing at least a bronze at his first Asian Games and was not surprised that the judges couldn’t agree.
“Of course it went to a split decision. He was really good,” Paalam told AFP. “He is number one in Kazakhstan. He has fought in the Olympics.
“He was smart, really experienced. I tried to ride it out, to use ring strategy.”
Paalam will now face Amit, who goes by one name, for a place in the final after the 22-year-old became the first Indian fighter to book a last-four berth, comprehensively outboxing North Korean Kim Jan Ryong.
Amit said he had drawn from the experience of veterans in the India camp such as light welterweight Manoj Kumar, 31, who has been to two Asian and two Olympic Games.
“There are many other senior boxers who motivate me and I learn from them,” he said. “Manoj (Kumar)is my roommate and he guides me, he shows me how to go about it.”