In first bout after a year, Manoj shows his class

A narrow 4-5 loss to Brazilian Myke Carvalho in the first round of the World Championship last year meant that 23-year-old Manoj Kumar lost his place in the Indian team to Balwinder Singh Beniwal in the 64 kg category. His previous achievements — a bronze in the 2007 Asian Boxing Championship, quarter-final finish in Germany in 2008 and a bronze medal in the 2009 Czech Grand Prix didn't help him stay in the team. A lingering back injury, which first flared up in 2008, meant that Manoj's career had suddenly gone into a tailspin. He was not picked for the Commonwealth Boxing Championships earlier this year.

In what can be termed a full circle of his wheel of destiny, in his first ever match representing India after that Milan loss, Kumar defeated Sierra Leone's Daniel Lassayo in a resounding 17-2 (RSIC) victory to move into the second round in the 64 Kg category. In another high point in the boxing ring for India, Amandeep Singh also advanced to the second round in the 49 Kg category with a 6-2 win over Peter Mulawi of Kenya, a boxer he had defeated in the final of the Commonwealth Championship.

"I wanted to start well. First round bouts are always the most crucial for us and I did not want to start on a bad note. The first round loss in the World Championships still hurts and after being out of the team for one year, I have learnt my lessons. I wanted to start aggressively today before I play the English and Scottish boxers in the draw," said Manoj, who will now face Gomotsang Gaasite in the second round. "It's a tough competition in the Indian team these days. In most categories, we have junior world champions, world youth champions and once you lose your place, it's hard to make a comeback. Balwinder and I are good friends and we train together. It helps us a lot and there is always a pressure on us to perform well. Some of my team members will be coming to see me fight in second round and that will boost me as well," Manoj said.

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