Pugilist Lakra books Olympic berth; Jitender, Bhagwan in line

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Chicago, Oct 31: Anthresh Lalit Lakra qualified for next year's Beijing Olympics after an impressive pre-quarterfinal victory in the World Boxing Championship here.

Lakra outpunched Shahin Imranov of Azerbaijan 15-9 in a 57kg bout to advance into the quarter-finals at University of Illinois-Chicago Pavilion yesterday to become the first Indian pugilist to qualify for Beijing.

Making it to quarterfinals of the Championship -- the largest ever in history -- is enough to secure a berth in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

In the quarter-finals tomorrow, Lakra takes on Yang Li of China who outplayed Carlos Zambrano Cordova of Peru 13-4 in another pre-quarterfinal bout.

Two other Indians -- Jitender Kumar (51kg) and Jai Bhagwan (60kg) -- have already advanced in the pre-quarter finals and are just one step away from joining Lakra for an Olympic berth.

Jitender will take on Russian Georgy Balakshin while Bhagwan will be up against Darley Perez of Colombia in the round of 16.

Lakra, who fell out of medal round in the World Military Games in Hyderabad this month, began with a bang with some solid punches and took a 3-1 lead at the end of first round.

But, his Central Asian opponent fought back on equal terms in the next two minutes though Lakra was still 6-4 up after the second round.

The Indian was at his best in the crucial third round at the end of which he had taken an important four point lead which proved decisive at the end.

Smelling victory after taking 11-7 lead, Lakra played defensive in the final round but at the same time scoring points. He kept a distance from his opponent to consume time even as landing some fine punches in between to walk away 15-9 winners.

Eight Indians took part in the Championship and five have crashed out before reaching round of 16.

Vijender Singh (75kg) and Dilbag Singh (69kg) had exited from the Championship in the second round while Balbir Singh (48kg), Jasveer Singh (81kg)and Suresh Singh (54kg) had crashed out in the first round.

More than 650 top pugilists from 120 countries are vying for honours in the championship, making it the largest ever boxing championships.

UNI

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