In India’s best-ever show, three boxers from the country - Deepak Bhoria, Mohammad Hussamudin and Nishant Dev - will step into the ring on Friday for the final berth at the men's boxing World Championships being held at Tashkent.
All three pugilists won their quarterfinal bouts on Wednesday, assuring India of three medals in the prestigious championship, thereby bettering the 2019 tally where the country won a silver (Amit Panghal in the flyweight category) and a bronze (Manish Kaushik in the light welterweight category).
While 26-year-old Bhoria, hailing from Haryana, will take on the two-time World bronze medallist Billal Bennama of France in the 51-kg category, Hussamuddin will take on Cuban Saidel Horta in the 57-kg category.
Though he has a much-stronger opponent in the semis, Bhoria's medal-winning performance in the quarters justified the controversial decision of director Bernard Dunne and coach Dmitry Dmitruk to choose him instead of Amit Panghal. Bhoria, a national champion in the category, aims to make a great comeback high on the podium after a tough year nursing an injury in his right shoulder.
He was also the finalist in the 2019 Asian Boxing Championships where he had to settle for the silver in a tight match that went in favour of Nodirjon Mirzakhmedov of Uzbekistan.
However, in the world championship, Bhoria, armed with a lethal left hook, staged one of the biggest upsets by upstaging Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist Saken Bibossinov of Kazakhstan.
This is Hussamudin's debut World Championship after winning bronze medals at Commonwealth and Asian Championships. The Telangana man will face a formidable opponent in Horta who knocked out Worlds and Asian Championships silver medallist top seed Serik Temirzhanov of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals.
However, the two-time Commonwealth Games bronze medallist is one of the most experienced campaigners in the squad and will be banking on this experience against Horta in the battle of the debutants.
Nishant Dev, a 22-year-old two-time National champion from Haryana, is pitted against reigning Asian champion Aslanbek Shymbergenov of Kazakhstan. Dev had already impressed everyone with his quarterfinal performance where he overpowered his much stronger Cuban opponent Terry Jorge Cuellar (5-0).
Though Dev reached the quarterfinals of the 2021 Worlds, he missed a medal by a whisker back then. With a bronze in his pocket, the tenacious pugilists would aspire to change the shade.
The fact that all three medals have come in Olympic categories augers well for India heading into the Asian Games, which is the first qualifying event for the Paris Olympics.
The overall medal count for the country before the ongoing edition stood at one silver, won by Panghal 2019, and six bronze medals, claimed by Vijender Singh (2009), Vikas Krishan (2011), Shiva Thapa (2015), Gaurav Bidhuri (2017), Manish Kausik (2019) and Akash Kumar (2021).