Vikas Krishan - man of steel

Indian boxer Vikas Krishan. K Asif/India Today Group/Getty Images

In the wee hours of Saturday, August 4, 2012, Vikas Krishan woke up to some disconcerting news. The decision of his Olympic welterweight pre-quarterfinal bout against USA's Errol Spence five hours ago had been overturned. Now, instead of hopes of a medal he was left with the crushing burden of a defeat, whose validity he did not entirely believe in. For a 20-year-old making his maiden Olympic appearance, this was too crude a shock to stomach, leaving him disappointed, disillusioned and on the brink of giving up the sport.

Four years down the line, Vikas, bruise marks contouring his face, has metamorphosed into a man of steel. Qualifying for the Rio Games after advancing to the semifinals of the AIBA World Olympic qualification event in Baku, Azerbaijan last month, the boxer from Bhiwani wants to leave little to chance this time around. "He's a boxer with a vision," notes Commonwealth Games 2006 gold medalist Akhil Kumar, "If he sets himself a target, he gives it everything that he possibly can. Also one of the most wonderful traits that I've noticed in him is that he's self-motivated."

Expectations leading up the London Games were staggering. Understandably so, given he was coming off some great results - gold at the Guangzhou Asian Games in 2010 and a bronze at the World Championships the following year. The failure at London left him devastated. A year's hiatus from the sport following the setback offered him both the time and the perspective to return to the ring with renewed zest.

Terming Vikas a 'sharp and intelligent' boxer, national coach GS Sandhu says with experience, he's grown wiser in strategies and stronger in mind. "He showed potential right from his junior years. He plans well, boxes with his mind and has power punches and good counter movements."

Competing in the same category (75 kg) as that of India's pin-up boxing star Vijender Singh, parallels were almost inevitable. Interestingly, according to insiders, prior to turning pro, Vijender had, on more than one occasion avoided a bout against Vikas.

Making his AIBA pro-boxing debut in New Delhi last month, Vikas, who has hinted of Rio being his final Olympic appearance, hammered Kenya's Nickson Abaka 3-0, possibly a tell-tale sign of him too taking the pro route in the near future.

With Rio being the second Olympic appearance for all three male Indian boxers who've qualified this time - Shiva Thapa, Manoj Kumar and Vikas - hopes aren't misplaced. A scientific boxer with a lot of confidence in his abilities, it's now largely a question of how the draw works out for Vikas at the Olympics.

Describing him as a 'great' medal prospect, 1994 World Championship bronze medalist V Devarajan, feels the Rio-bound boxer's counterattacking style is winning. "Sometimes, in case of even the best boxers, when your instinct is to attack first, there are good chances of making an error in judgement. Vikas though waits for his opponent to make the first move. Though I feel he could do a lot better in the close range which would in turn improve his speed and power combination," he says.

With the boxing federation in disarray and no nationals being conducted or exposure trips provided for, JSW Sport stepped in two years ago, cushioning the blow on Vikas. Making provision for stints in England and USA, so he could spar with international partners and train with the best, they've stood behind him firmly. His promise, CEO Mustafa Ghouse says, was never in doubt. "He's very clear about what he wants and can be extremely stubborn about it," he says, "The London incident robbed him of his inclination to compete but then something within him snapped, he probably felt there was unfinished business." He probably knew that his moment of reckoning was due.