Debutant Akash Kumar (54kg) secured India’s first medal at the ongoing AIBA World Men’s Boxing Championships here on Tuesday after advancing to the semifinals with a superb win over former Olympic silver-medallist Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela.
The 21-year-old Akash, who is a reigning national champion, prevailed 5-0 in a fabulous performance during which his punching and showmanship were simply outstanding.
The fearless youngster scored on counter-attacks with a non-existent guard and taunted his opponent, all this while staying out of his range with terrific pace and footwork.
The Services boxer, who is a product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, lost his mother to a lung infection in September and competed in the national championships unaware of the tragedy.
His father died more than a decade back after initiating him to boxing and his younger brother is in jail in connection with a murder case.
On Tuesday, Akash became only the seventh Indian male boxer to secure a world championship medal and is also assured of a prize money of at least $25,000.
Rivas had originally won a bronze in the Rio 2016 Olympics but his medal was upgraded to silver after the original second-place finisher failed a dope test.
Akash will be up against 19-year-old Makhmud Sabyrkhan of Kazakhstan, a three-time Asian gold-medallist at the youth level.
Later this evening, five-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa (63.5kg) will square off against Turkey’s Kerem Oezmen in the quarterfinals along with three other Indians.
Thapa would be aiming to become the first Indian male boxer to claim two medals at the world event, having fetched a bronze in the 2015 edition.
Narender Berwal (+92kg) will go up against Azerbaijan’s Mahammad Abdullayev, while Nishant Dev (71kg) will take on Russia’s Vadim Musaev.
Reigning Asian champion Sanjeet (92kg), who was a quarterfinalist in the event’s last edition, will face Italian Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine.
India’s previous medal winners at the world championships are Vijender Singh (Bronze, 2009), Vikas Krishan (Bronze, 2011), Thapa (Bronze, 2015), Gaurav Bidhuri (Bronze, 2017), Amit Panghal (Silver, 2019) and Manish Kaushik (Bronze, 2019).
The gold winners at the showpiece will walk away with a prize money of $100,000.
The silver medallists are to be given $50,000, and both bronze-medallists will be awarded $25,000 each. The total prize purse stands at a whopping $2.6 million.
India are being represented by its reigning national champions across weight categories.