By Meenakshi Rao
London, Aug 8 : Two Manipuris — both diminutive dynamos from the neglected North-East — are now at the centre-stage of India’s medal campaign in the boxing arena after poster boy Vijender Singh crashed out in a late night encounter against Uzbekistan’s Abbos Atoev.
While MC Mary Kom, the fair lady of this Olympics’ maiden sport, is in a set piece fight against home star Nicola Adams, Laishram Devendro Singh faces quite a few impossibilities against established Irish strongman Paddy Barnes who, incidentally, has a sense of humour as striking as his punches.
The veteran in Mary has an uphill task which will centre around first her mind and only then her much-known pain-inducing blows and agility in the ring. For one, she will be battling the woman who defeated her just the other day outside of the Olympics, almost blocking her first and last entry into the Big Games.
“I will not be thinking of that victory too much,” Adams said and it will be cool if Mary does the same with that defeat. The good part is that along the way, Mary has picked up the gumption to take on anything that comes in her way of getting the gold. She is also known to not get defeated by the same opponent twice. But then, boxing is all about the spur of the moment and it will not help Mary that her opponent will be riding on crowd support, which has been loud and cantankerous in supporting its home players.
Devendro (49kg), on the other hand, may have an advantage on this front at least, as the Brits in the stands might prefer to root for anyone other than an Irishman. But, the Indian still has a mission impossible at hand. He is a rookie teenager known more for his all-out attacks while his opponent is a man of many wars won and displayed.
“When we selected Devendro, there was a huge issue with critics who wondered why we would opt for a rookie. But this rookie is good at what he does. You cannot ignore the fact that in his last bout, he comprehensively downed a Beijing silver medallist in the Mongolian. He has the ability to surprise even though Barnes would have done his homework on him,” AIBA general secretary pointed out.
“He has no carryover problems. He has won his last two bouts on a high attack mode. It will be tough, not impossible,” coach GS Sandhu insisted.
Meanwhile, Barnes, the only boxer to have tweeted victory from inside the ring, has been on the right side of confidence. The 25-year-old told his 8,000 Twitter followers: “Job done from the Olympic ring. Paddy Barnes, bringing you closer to the action.” That’s for fun but the dead serious next is the one for Devendro to beware.
“I’m feeling strong. I’m ready to take on anyone,” Barnes has warned, and the fact that he has this ability to dictate the tempo is something that India’s onslaught man will have to wink at.
Hope, thus, lies in Devendro’s unpredictability. He is the rapid fire man of boxing - a delightfully unorthodox pugilist who brings in the torrential rain of punches. Not one for too much of the book, he dazzles you with his dancing feet and relentless blows with no concern for either the bigness of his opponent or the hugeness of the stage. All that can daze anyone, even Beijing bronze medallist Barnes with all his experience at hand.