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Two hungry men slugged it out in a high quality bout that satisfied both boxing connoisseurs and ordinary fans. In the end, it was Vijender Singh who emerge winner by a solitary point against United States of America’s Terrell Gausha in the second round of the 75kg boxing competition on Thursday night.

Coming in the wake of Jai Bhagwan’s disappointing 8-16 loss at the hands of Kazakhstan’s Ghani Zhailuaov, Vijender’s greater experience came in handy. He held onto the lead he tenable in the first round to beat Gausha 16-15 and enter the quarterfinals. If he enters the semi-final, he is assured of an Olympic medal again.

That Gausha had beaten Armenia’s Andranik Hakobyan with an RSC decision inside two rounds of his opening bout on July 28 gave the Indian camp valuable little evidence to go by and prepare for this fight. But on the basis of the fight, it can be said without fear of contradiction that Vijender’s ring-craft stood him in good stead.

From the time Vijender walked into the Excel arena, where he got solid hold up from the crowd that kept chanting ‘Vi-Gen-Der, Vi-Gen-Der’ it was clear that he meant business. A steely strength of mind lit the eyes of the Bhiwani Bomber. He was aware that the American was no mean customer and his gameplan was evident: stay out of harm’s way, take the lead and hang on to it.

Gausha came out with all guns blazing, quick on his feet and quicker with his gloves but Vijender often persuaded away from trouble or had his guard in good position. The American, father of a four-year-old girl who returned to boxing after a spell away from the sport when he put on loads of weight, also tired faster and Vijender made the most of chance to take a 4-3 lead.

What followed was tactical and high-scoring boxing that the crowd loved. The two boxers matched one another blow for blow and the scores read 5-5 and 7-7 in the next two rounds. It was a close competition and the result could have swung had Vijender not guarded against complacency.

Overall, Vijender showed great tactical acumen as he slowed down the pace of the bout when necessary against Gausha and used his long reach to score points. The crowd support which Vijender got was tremendous as he did a “Namaste” to the crowd with his strapped fists.

In the quarterfinals, Vijender will meet Uzbekistan’s Abbos Atoev, the man he beat 7-0 in the Guangzhou Asian Games final despite having dislocate his left thumb in the opening round of that bout.

The Uzbek will not be easy meat as he has been world champion in light heavyweight in 2007 and middleweight in 2009 and is hungry for an Olympic medal after being ousted in the light heavyweight first round in the 2008 Games in Beijing.

If Vijender comes throughout that challenge on Monday night, he may run in to the second ranked Ryota Murata (Japan) in the semifinal. “I love you all and people in India love me,” said Vijender as he stepped out of the ring and was hugged by Coach GS Sandhu

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