India’s Asian/Oceania boxing Olympic qualifiers got off to a bright start after Gaurav Solanki and Ashish Kumar both qualified for the next round after winning their round of 32 bouts in Amman, Jordan on Tuesday.
Gaurav Solanki was the first Indian boxer in action on the opening day and the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) gold medallist put in a terrific performance to get India’s strong boxing contingent off to winning ways.
Gaurav Solanki’s dominant display
His blistering performance in the men’s featherweight (52-57kg) saw him work out what he needed to do to get the better of Kyrgyzstan's two-time national champion Akylbek Esenbek Uulu early in the opening round of the boxing Olympic qualifiers.
Gaurav Solanki used his left jab very effectively and doubled up with body shots to Esenbek with his right whenever he saw an opening.
His left-right combination, in fact, found plenty of success, resulting in the reddening of Esenbek’s face quite early in the bout.
Looking to counter the Indian boxer, the pugilist from Kyrgyzstan tried switching to southpaw midway through the first round. However, it had little effect as he only ended up walking into vicious straight body shots.
Esenbek then looked to force the pace at the start of the second round. However, he got tagged by a hard right to chin immediately as Gaurav Solanki looked to pick up from where he left off in the first round.
That said, the Kyrgyzstan boxer continued to try and close the distance, looking to land some punches on Gaurav Solanki in the clinch, which he did manage to a certain degree.
Wary about Esenbek’s tactic of closing the distance, the Commonwealth Games gold medallist countered with rapid one-two combination punches that had worked so well for him in round one.
Esenbek continued to battle on and showed his competitive spirit in the third round, where he once again looked to close the distance between himself and Gaurav Solanki to unleash a few solid rights to the body.
Gaurav Solanki, though, was already aware of Esenbek’s strategy and kept using his left jabs to maintain safe range.
Esenbek even changed to southpaw again in the last minute of the bout but the Indian boxer ensured there wouldn’t be any last-minute surprises with quick straight punches that capped off a thoroughly dominant display.
On his unanimous decision win, Gaurav Solanki told the Olympic Channel, “It was a very intense match and I was looking for the clear win and I got it. I'm very happy.“
He will now face no. 1 seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov in the next round of the boxing Olympic qualifiers and Gaurav Solanki made it clear that he only has one objective against the Uzbekistan boxer, “I’m clear about that, I’ll do my best and I’ll win.”
Ashish Kumar recovers to win
India’s other bout on day 1 saw Ashish Kumar facing Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Wei Kan in the men’s middleweight (69-75kg) category.
The opening round in this bout was fairly evenly contested with both boxers landing some heavy punches from short and mid-range.
Ashish Kumar was on the back foot for the majority of the round and was fighting with his hands down, looking for openings to attack.
Chia-Wei Kan shaded the round 3-2 according to the judges, however, that would be as good as it got for the man from Chinese Taipei.
The Indian middleweight came into his own and was more aggressive in the second round. He began fighting on the front and began attacking more to reduce his opponent’s threat from long range.
Ashish Kumar landed several hard punches in the second round but none more so than a right uppercut and a right to the solar plexus that had his opponent grimacing.
The final round saw Ashish Kumar grow in confidence and it showed with his dancing footwork in the ring. He wasn’t afraid to eat a few punches either and made sure he got the better of any exchange with crunching rights and his left jab.
The Chinese Taipei pugilist, who had already gone down twice in the bout, seemed completely spent by the end of the last round, where he stumbled to his knees for a third time.
Ashish Kumar, meanwhile, still looked fresh and was given a unanimous decision win by the judges to move into the next round.
After the bout, he was quick to thank his coaches for the victory.
“I lost the first round but I recovered in the second and third round because of my coaches, they guided me properly,” he said. “I attacked more, my opponent is better than me in the long-range. So I changed my plan and started to attack and won the fight.”
The win means that Ashish Kumar will face fourth seed Omurbek Bekzhigit in the next round of the boxing Olympic qualifiers in two days time.
When and where to watch the boxing Olympic qualifiers
You can follow all the action from the Asia/Oceania Boxing Qualification live exclusively on the Olympic Channel as well as our Facebook page. The morning session will get underway at 2:30 PM IST while the evening session is scheduled to begin at 8:30 IST.