Vijender Singh (75kg) became the first Indian boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games for a third successive time after reaching the semi-finals of the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Sunday.
The first Indian to win an Olympic and World Championships medal -- bronze in both events -- Vijender out-punched Chuluuntumur Tumurkhuyag of Mongolia 27-17 to not just assure himself of an Olympic berth, but also a medal at the ongoing tournament.
"I am back," were Vijender's first words after winning the crucial bout; defeat in the bout would have ended his hopes of making the London Games.
The 26-year-old had failed in his first attempt to book a ticket for London at last year's World Championships.
"I have answered all my critics who said that I was finished [after losing in the first round of the World Championships]," said the former World No. 1, who was gasping for breath after a draining encounter.
Before the 2008 Beijing Games, Vijender had won gold at the Asian qualifiers, which, incidentally, were also held in Kazakhstan.
"I will now give it my all in the Olympics and prove that I am the best. It's such a relief to have got qualified. The fact that I am the first Indian boxer to have qualified for a third successive Olympics makes it all the more special," he said.
Vijender, a former World Championships bronze-medallist, had defeated Syria's Ishak Waez in his pre-quarter-final bout after getting an opening-round bye.
"His fitness and endurance were a revelation in today's bout. He took me by surprise with the intensity with which he fought," said national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.
"I don't have words to describe how well he fought. It was a fantastic display by a proven talent," he added.
Vijender had lost in the preliminaries of 2004 Athens Games, but went on to clinch a bronze in the Beijing edition.
With his qualification for London, he is the fifth Indian boxer to book a berth for the mega event.
India already have four Olympic berths through L Devendro Singh (49kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (69kg) who grabbed slots after reaching the quarter-finals of the World Championships last year.
After having gotten rid of the 2011 Asian Championships silver medallist in the quarters, Vijender will now take on the bronze medal winner of the same tournament -- Nursahat Pazziyev of Turkmenistan -- for a place in the final on Wednesday.
In the evening session, Sumit Sangwan (81kg) also entered the semi-finals, beating Korea's Hyeongkyu Kim 22-12. But he is still not assured of an Olympic berth, as the 81kg has just three slots on offer.
If the 19-year-old loses in the last-four stage, he will have to fight it out in a play-off bout to clinch a berth.
Sumit, who defeated Olympian Dinesh Kumar in the national trials for the event, was tied 4-4 with his opponent in the opening round.
The Haryana-lad then got a slight hold over the bout by clinching the second round 7-3. In the final three minutes, Sumit dominated the proceedings and sealed the issue comfortably.
Sumit will face Jordan's Ihab Almatdault in the semi-finals.
Later, Asian Games silver-medallist Manpreet Singh (91kg) beat Chingis Borbashev of Kyrgyzstan in less than two rounds in his quarter-final bout.
The Indian was down 4-8 in the opening three minutes but came back strongly with some hard punches that resulted in three compulsory counts for Borbashev in the next round which led to the referee awarding the bout to Manpreet.
He will now face Iran's Ali Mazaheri in the semi-finals.
Manpreet will have to fetch a gold in the final to book an Olympic berth as his category has just one slot available for the Games.
"That's what boxing is all about; it's unpredictable. Manpreet was trailing but he won because he got himself together and went all out in the second round," said Sandhu, after an all-win day for India.