After a strong Indian contingent in Badminton, we move on to an event that won India a medal (Bronze for a young Vijender Singh) at Beijing: Boxing.
This sport has taken favorable form in India after encouraging results in 2008, followed by the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.
Eight Indian boxers will be participating over 8 different categories-
Devendro Singh (Light flyweight)
The 49 kg Manipuri boxer fancies his chances at the Games, with help from his former national level boxer sister Sushila Devi. The 19 year old hasn’t taken the world or even his country by storm yet, and his qualification for the Olympics came as a surprise last year over Commonwealth Gold medalist Amandeep Singh. Following this, Devendro then reached the quarter finals of the World Championships, justifying his Olympic spot.
His main contenders will be South Korean Jong Shin and three-time Chinese World champion Zou Shiming.
Shiva Thapa (Bantamweight)
The Assamese boy is the youngest Indian boxer (18) to qualify for the Olympics. Supported by the Olympic Gold Quest, Shiva won the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan by defeating Syria’s Wessam Salamana in the final. He is a silver medalist at the Youth Olympics, and is an enormous talent mentored personally by OGQ COO Viren Rusquinha, and trains at the Army Sports Institute in Pune.
Shiva Thapa, the 1-2-3 Kid
Jai Bhagwan (Lightweight)
After missing out twice on the Olympics, 60kg category veteran boxer Jai Bhagwan reached the quarter finals of the World Championships last year to book his berth at London. Still only 26, this battle-scarred boxer could spring a surprise at his first Games, after seeing more red than green over his long career. Qualifying early has given him time to train and work on his weaknesses, which will serve him well in the biggest stint of his career.
Manoj Kumar (Light welterweight)
The Haryanvi lad is a gold medalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, and a bronze medalist at the Olympic Qualifying tournament. One of the newer faces in Indian boxing, he pipped Balwinder Singh (cousin of Vijender Singh) to a spot for the 64 kg category, in a return to form this year.
Vikas Krishan Yadav (Welterweight)
A gold medalist in the 2010 Asian Games in the Lightweight category, Yadav is from Hisar in Haryana, and is another product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune. He is known to be a cerebral boxer (and an avid chess player), strategic and studied- a quality that sets him apart from the rest.
Vijender Singh (Middleweight)
The face of Indian Boxing. The most popular boxer in the country, Vijender is a boxer who seems to have gained maximum mileage from Beijing, and to his credit, has only improved. He is a Commonwealth Games gold medalist and an Asian Game Champion, and briefly held the top rank in this category in 2009. He is a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award winner, and is favorite to bring back atleast a bronze from London. Fortunately, he has left behind an encouraging Bollywood career in order to concentrate on what he does best- win in the ring.
Sumit Sangwan (Light Heavyweight)
The second teenager along with Shiva to qualify for the Olympics after winning a gold at the Asian World Championships. The Haryana boxer heads into London, relatively inexperienced, but capable of causing an upset or two.
One boxer will represent India in the women’s category, and fittingly, it will be the most famous name in Indian boxing-
Mary Kom (flyweight)
A five-time World Champion, she is currently ranked no. 4 in the 51 kg category. Dubbed as ‘Magnificent Mary’, she came back in 2008 to win another title after a two-year sabbatical. A stroke of luck helped her clinch a spot at London, after she was forced to switch to flyweight because light flyweight wasn’t part of the Olympics. After losing in the quarters, she had to depend on World no. 2 Adams- her conqueror- to win the semi finals, which she duly did- and handed Mary Kom an Olympic spot. The Manipuri Champion is a mother of two, and this will be her best chance to win at the biggest tournament of her career.
In all likelihood, Kom could come away with atleast a Bronze medal for her country.