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1.9.09

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Vijender Singh continues to scale new heights and the Olympic bronze medallist was on Monday given the top billing in the middle
weight category while three Indians were also seeded in the World Boxing Championships starting in Milan, Italy on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old, who was awarded Khel Ratna last week, got a bye in the first round but has a tough bout at hand in the second round against a Kazakh boxer.

"Vijender was named top seed at the draw ceremony today. It is amazing that Cuban boxer Emilio Correa to whom Vijender lost in the Olympic semifinals has been seeded fifth," Indian coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said in Milan.

Among other Indians, Beijing Olympics quarter-finalist Akhil Kumar, who makes his featherweight debut in Milan, has been seeded seventh and will face an opponent from the Dominican Republic.

Asian Championship silver medallist T Nanao Singh (48kg) has been seeded fourth and has a tricky opener against Azerbaijan.

Olympian Dinesh Kumar (81kg) is also seeded fourth in his category and will face off against Czech boxer in the first round.

"It's a very tough draw. Because the size of the field was so huge, we haven't got byes. But I am keeping my fingers crossed for a good performance," Sandhu said.

With close to 750 boxers from 143 countries in fray in the 15th edition of the event, the odds are stacked against the Indians but they have sprung quite a few surprises in the past one year to be counted among the contenders in Milan.
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"It's such a huge field but we are not intimidated. If we allow ourselves to get overwhelmed by this, we would end up spoiling our own chances," Akhil said.

Among other Indians, Asian champion Suranjoy Singh (51kg) will start against a Mongolian opponent, while Olympian Jitender Kumar (54kg) will be up against a Kazakh rival.

Asian championships silver medallist Jai Bhagwan has a relatively easy opener against a Venezuelan, while Manoj Kumar takes on a Brazilian in his first-round bout.

The nine-strong team, described by Sandhu as one of the strongest ever, would be aiming to do better than just making the quarter-final, which has been India's best show in the past editions.

The presence of World Series of Boxing's franchisees, who are there to pick boxers for their respective teams, is an added motivation as Indians chase another first.

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