NEW DELHI: “Attack, attack and attack”. Indian coaches yelled during the bout and between breaks as Indian boxer Deepak Kumar fought his heart out against local boy, Bulgaria’s Daniel Asenov, in the final of the men’s 52kg category at the Strandja Memorial boxing tournament in Sofia on Saturday evening.
Fresh from his career’s biggest win against reigning Olympic & World Champion Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan in the semi-finals a day earlier, Deepak’s punches, his range and striking power oozed confidence and the Armyman looked every bit the worthy successor to own the weight category.
However, two-time European champion Asenov, who too had been unrelenting during the entire bout, relied on his tactical brilliance rather than going all-out with his punches and proved just the better boxer of the two to prevail over Deepak with a 3-2 split decision.
With Deepak settling for silver, India finished its campaign in the tournament with two medals, the other being the bronze won by Naveen Boora in the men’s 69 kg category. Indian women boxers failed to secure any medal at the meet.
In the final, both Deepak and Asenov began on an aggressive note and looked to match each other’s range of strikes, with the Indian exposed to some punches from the Bulgarian. Deepak was impressive with his foot movement and looked to take advantage of the four corners. However, Asenov was equally up for the challenge and quickly got the grip of his opponent’s attacking display.
In the second round, Deepak was clever with his coordinated right hooks and jabs – few of them even connected – as the Asian Championship silver medallist looked to wear his opponent down.
Before the third and final round, Deepak’s coaches reminded him of his win against Zoirov and egged him on to step ahead and land flurry of punches on Asenov to destroy his defence. Deepak tried and attacked, but his opponent played street-smart and indulged in defensive tactics by wrapping the Indian arms and held on to create a pause, forcing the referee to break the deadlock. Later, in the dying minutes, Asenov landed some clear punches to clinch the bout and the gold medal.
“It is disappointing that I could not win the gold but these last few days have been nothing short of a dream come true. I was determined to make a mark in this tournament especially when I got an opportunity to play against a champion opponent like Shakhobidin Zoirov in the semis. I am very happy that I could come out a winner. Though a lot of work still needs to be done and I will be focusing on it along with my coaches as I go return to India,” Deepak added.
The silver is also the 23-year-old Deepak’s maiden medal from this prestigious and Europe’s oldest tournament. He lost here in the first round last year.