The sole Indian boxer left flying the country’s flag at the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics and currently perhaps the only Indian athlete with a realistic chance of securing a medal, the pressure is well and truly on Vikas Krishan Yadav.
The 24-year-old Vikas will face 20-year-old Uzbek boxer Bektemir Melikuziev in the quarterfinals of the middleweight (75 kg) category on Tuesday early morning. Vikas has been in fine form, having recorded two straight unanimous decision victories over boxers from the USA and Turkey. Melikuziev delivered a battering to Australia’s Daniel Lewis in his opening fight after receiving a bye in the first preliminary round.
Tuesday’s clash will be an intriguing one. Melikuziev is a rising star on the amateur boxing circuit and won the Silver medal at the 2015 World Championship in Doha. He is also the 2014 Youth Olympic champ in the welterweight (69 kg) category. Interestingly, the young Uzbek has faced Vikas once before, in the finals of the 2015 Asian Boxing Championship. On that day in Bangkok, Melikuziev snatched victory right from Vikas’ grasp, after a brutal three-round contest which many deemed too close to call.
Vikas who dismissed Turkey’s Sipal Onder’s challenge in the pre-quarterfinal in comprehensively said that he was looking forward to a hard fight against Melikuziev. “He is a young hungry boxer. He moves around a lot and throws some hard punches. It will be a challenging bout but I am confident that I have the momentum and also the skill-set required to get past the Uzbek,” he said.
Both boxers are five feet ten inches tall and thus neither will be afforded a height advantage. While Vikas is riding on two dominating victories coming into this clash, Melikuziev can be said to be a tad undercooked, having come up against Lewis, who did not seem to put up too much of a fight.
The winner of this clash will move into the semifinals of the event and will be assured of a medal. Vikas said that it would be important to raise his game against the youngster and he was confident that he could do just that. “I did not operate at my full capacity against my first two opponents but I am sure I will be at my best against Melikuziev in this fight. I understand the importance of this fight, I know what is at stake. I am motivated to go all the way and it goes without saying that I will be giving it my all in the ring tonight,” he said. The bout begins at 3.30 IST on Tuesday morning and will be telecast on the Star Sports network.