He has bulked up to “Indian boxing’s golden category” -- the middleweight -- in pursuit of a second successive Commonwealth Games medal and after two podium finishes since the shift, Mandeep Jangra says he is ready to dethrone the more accomplished Vikas Krishan.
Mandeep, who claimed a silver medal at the Glasgow 2014 CWG in the welterweight (69kg) category, would be giving it a shot in the 75kg division at the Gold Coast edition come April.
But for that, he would have to get past Vikas, an Asian Games gold-medallist, a multiple-time Asian Championships medallist, a world championships bronze-medallist, and an Olympian to boot.
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“Middleweight and bantamweight (56kg) are the golden categories of Indian boxing. From Viju bhai (Vijender Singh) to Akhil bhai, look at what these guys have achieved. I think I will also achieve a lot in middleweight,” the newly-crowned national champion told PTI .
His statement is not too off the mark given that Vijender became the country’s first Olympic and world medallist in middleweight. Bantamweight, on the other hand, has thrown up achievers such as former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Akhil and three-time Asian medallist and world bronze-medallist Shiva Thapa.
Mandeep, an Arjuna awardee, clinched a bronze at the recently-concluded India Open, which was given a miss by Vikas owing to a hand injury.
“I was upto it against Vikas in the trials and lost a close bout. I beat a Thai boxer at the India Open in the quarterfinals and lost a split verdict to an Uzbek in the semifinal, I think I am getting close to top performance and will be able to beat Vikas in the next trial,” said Mandeep.
Mandeep had lost 4-1 to Israil Madrimov, the reigning Asian champion and an Asian Games silver-medallist.
The 24-year-old’s decision to jump to middleweight was more of his mentor Akhil than his own but given the success, he is not complaining. He hopes to break into the Target Olympic Podium Scheme for better financial assistance.
“Akhil bhai suggested that I try 75kg after I came back from injury but I was not sure, I thought I didn’t have the power but eventually I realised I was mistaken.
“I know if I have to become the first choice, I have to beat Vikas soundly. He is technically a very sharp boxer but I think I can beat him on pace and power,” he asserted.
Mandeep had quite literally vanished from the scene after the 2014 CWG owing to a hairline fracture in the wrist, which aggravated after he carried it to tournaments, including the Glasgow Games.
“I made a huge mistake in doing that. A bone in my wrist was all but destroyed because of the fact that I continued to compete despite injury. After CWG, I got it operated, took a long break and have come back after attaining full fitness,” he said.
“I work with a very simple funda ‘prayaas itne shaant ho ki safalta shor machaye (efforts should be so hushed that success ends up making the most noise),” he signed off.