By Marcus Bellinger-
With a perfect blend of youth and experience there were heady expectations on the 12 strong Indian boxing squad that travelled to the recently concluded Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast in Australia and it’s fair to say those expectations were definitely met with the 3 golds, 3 silvers and 3 bronze medals far and away eclipsing the 4 silvers and a bronze gained 4 years ago in Glasgow in 2014.
Of course the main focus should be on the boxers but the coaching staff deserve massive praise for all their hard work behind the scenes and the BFI also deserved huge credit for providing a stable environment and numerous opportunities for the fighters to compete in high level tournaments around the world since their inception in late 2016.
With Mary Kom victorious in the light flyweight division and completing the set of winning a medal at every major tournament, it’s hard to know what to say what hasn’t already been said about not only a true icon of women’s boxing but someone who has inspired millions of young girls in her homeland. Even at 35-years-old she has shown she’s still able to compete at the top level and if she still possesses the hunger, passion and desire and her body allows her there’s no reason why she can’t try and win another Olympic medal in Tokyo.
The number of women’s weight categories doubled from 3 to 6 from the last edition of the Commonwealths but no definitive plans have been announced to extend this to the Olympics as of now. The other 3 female boxers Pinki Rani, Sarita Devi and Lovina Borglhain will have been disappointed to not come away with a medal and with a burgeoning pipeline of talent coming through as was seen by the 7 golds claimed at last year’s world Youth championships in Guwahati, competition for places will be fierce over the next few years.
The other 3 experienced members of the team, Vikas Krishan, Satish Kumar and Manoj Kumar all performed admirably with Krishan scalping middleweight top spot, Satish taking super heavyweight silver and Manoj grabbing Bronze at welterweight.
Perhaps the most pleasing element from the Gold Coast was the outstanding displays of the 5 youngsters in Amit, Gaurav Solanki, Hussamuddin Mohammad, Manish Kaushik and Naman Tanwar. All these 5 are under 25-years-old and represent a bright future for Indian boxing going forward. Solanki took gold in the flyweight division but had to show real grit and determination in his semi-final contest against Sri Lanka’s M Vidanalange Ishan Bandara. He then boxed superbly in the final against experience campaigner Brendan Irvine of Northern Ireland.
Amit proved his world class credentials in 2017, pushing outstanding Uzbek Hasanboy Dusmatov all the way in their 2 meetings at the Asian and world championships. The light flyweight southpaw had to settle for silver having been outhustled by England’s Galal Yafai but still expect Amit to be in the reckoning for medals at future world events especially if he can work on his inside game and using the jab more to keep fighters at range.
Mohammad simply came up against one of the best in the world in England’s Peter McGrail in his bantamweight semi but the 24-year-old should use this as a real building block for future success.
Having captured Bronze at the 2016 world Youth championships, Tanwar came in with real pedigree and should be fairly satisfied with his Bronze medal and should only excel given more top flite bouts. The 19-year-old has real swagger and is a born entertainer but given the likes of Vassiliy Levit and Erislandy Savon amongst others are in the heavyweight (91kg) division, defence will need to be a bigger priority at certain stages.
Despite only coming away with silver Manish Kaushik really caught the eye and was undoubtedly the best newcomer at the games. Having defeated world class operator Shiva Thapa twice in recent times there was a major curiosity for those who hadn’t seen him before. The 22-year-old had a tough route to the final but showed his class in overcoming England’s Calum French and gifted Northern Irish youngster James McGivern in the last 8 and last 4 respectively. The gold medal clash against Australia’s Harry Garside certainly could have gone either way but Kaushik looks like a future star and someone who is capable of winning world and Olympic hardware.
It’s not only the women where there is genuine competition for places as in a number of divisions there is real depth amongst the men with the likes of Sachin Siwach, Kavinder Singh Bisht, Gaurav Bidhuri, Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan not attending the Commonwealths and with this ever increasing pool of available talent all the boxers can only benefit from the high level sparring and poor performances will see fighters lose their place in the team. Finally apart from the WSB where the Indian Tigers still have a solid shot of making the play-offs the other significant tournament in 2018 is the Asian Games which take place in Jakarta in August and if the upward trajectory continues then expect many more medals in major competitions and India can be a powerhouse in AIBA boxing in the next decade.
By Marcus Bellinger-
The final day of action from the Gold Coast saw the gold medallists crowned.
Kicking things off were the women’s light flyweight (48kg) as India’s Mary Kom faced Kristina O’Hara of Northern Ireland. A tight and tactical opening round saw quality punches landed at a premium with neither fighter wanting to make mistakes. Kom edged forward on occasions in the second and did enough to take another fairly close round. Again both fighters found it pretty difficult to score with many meaningful shots in the last round but it was Kom who was victorious via unanimous decision to add to her bulging collection of gold medals.
In the men’s light flyweight (49kg) category England’s Galal Yafai took on India’s Amit. Yafai immediately came out onto the front foot and forced Amit backwards throughout round 1. Yafai continued to dominate on the inside in round 2 and Amit simply wasn’t afforded any time and space to work. Amit attempted to turn the tide but Yafai never relented and the Englishman was declared the winner via split decision to take gold.
Up at flyweight (52kg) India’s Gaurav Solanki squared off against Northern Ireland’s Brendan Irvine. Solanki picked off Irvine as he came forward in a quiet opening 3 minutes. Solanki caught Irvine with a big right hand at the start of round 2 and despite the Northern Irishman’s best efforts the Indian was in full control of the contest. Irvine began to find his range in the last round especially with the left hook but it wasn’t enough and Solanki claimed the gold with the split decision.
At lightweight (60kg) India’s Manish Kaushik clashed with Australia’s Harry Garside. Garside scored with a nice southpaw left in an opening stanza where not much of note was landed. Both were looking to counter each other in a tight second round and the bout was beautifully poised. Kaushik may had shaded the third but overall there was nothing to split them and at the final bell it was Garside who got the split verdict to win gold but the 22-year-old Indian announced himself at this tournament as a future star for his nation.
The final session saw India’s Vikas Krishan go up against Cameroon’s Dieudonne Wilfried Seyi Ntsengue in the middleweight (75kg) division. Both men enjoyed success in the opening round. Krishan targeted the body well but Ntsengue responded with plenty of quality shots of his own and it was all to play for going into the last round. Krishan landed the cleaner punches in the third and the Indian won the unanimous decision to win gold.
The final fight of the games was at super heavyweight (+91kg) as India’s Satish Kumar tangled with England’s Frazer Clarke. Kumar was the aggressor in round 1 with Clarke looking to land the jab and fight at range. Kumar continued to press forward and take the fight to Clarke with both boxers scoring with plenty of punches in a close second stanza. The 2 men battled it out in an all action final 3 minutes but it was Clarke who got the unanimous decision in a cracking bout to end a thoroughly enjoyable Commonwealth Games where India really prospered.
By Marcus Bellinger
Day 9 saw the finalist decided at the Commonwealth boxing at the Gold Coast in Australia.
In the first light flyweight (49kg) semi Sri Lanka’s Thiwanka Ranasinghe took on England’s Galal Yafai. Yafai immediately forced his opponent on to the defensive and a left hand forced a standing 8 count and a cut round the Sri Lankan’s right eye only added to his mounting issues. Ranasinghe was clearly out of his depth and was given another count in round 2 as Yafai continued to pepper his man with crisp punches. Knowing he was miles behind, Ranasinghe charged out in round 3 but was given 2 more standing counts before the contest was brought to an end.
The other light flyweight (49kg) semi saw Juma Miiro of Uganda up against Amit of India. Amit patiently stalked his opponent and Miiro walked onto some hard left hands in the opening stanza. Amit totally dominated with the left hand in round 2, causing a standing 8 count in the process. Amit forced another standing 8 count and cruised through the final round to book his place in the final and the clash with Yafai should be a cracker.
Up at flyweight (52kg) India’s Gaurav Solanki tussled for a final spot against M Vidanalange Ishan Bandara from Sri Lanka. Bandara got off to the perfect start, dropping Solanki twice with left hooks in round 1 and a big upset was on the cards. Solanki recovered fairly well in round 2 but he was still up against it to try and secure victory. Solanki was really busy in the final 3 minutes and the strong finish from the Indian saw him sneak home via split decision and he’ll now take on Northern Ireland’s Brendan Irvine in the final.
In the lightweight (60kg) category Manish Kaushik from India squared off against Northern Ireland’s James McGivern. Kaushik landed some good right hands to the body and some decent left hands in a pretty close first round with both men really thinking about what they were doing. Kaushik again enjoyed success to the body and the more eye-catching shots were coming from the Indian in what was another intriguing and tacticle round of boxing. McGivern had his best round in the third but Kaushik was overall quicker off the mark and he took the split decision and will vie for gold against Australia’s Harry Garside.
India’s Naman Tanwar went up against Jason Whateley from Australia at heavyweight (91kg). Both men really let their hands go in a highly entertaining round 1 with Whateley landing some nice shots to both head and body. Whateley scored effectively to the body in round 2 and despite some late flurries and uppercuts Tanwar was behind and needed a huge last round. A point off for Tanwar at the end of the second really gave him a mountain to climb and it proved to be too big a task as Whateley claimed the unanimous decision to advance to the final however, the 19-year-old Indian proved his worth at this tournament and is no doubt a talent for the future.
It was then on to the second session and England’s Peter McGrail squared off against India’s Hussamuddin Mohammed at bantamweight (56kg). McGrail was quick on his feet and darted in and out in round 1 whilst Mohammed did have some success of his own. McGrail kept up the terrific movement in round 2, landing with quality left hands on numerous occasions and a bad cut to the right eye of Mohammed only added to his problems. Mohammed upped the intensity and began the final stanza really well but the late rally wasn’t enough and McGrail advanced onto the final but the Indian youngster can be very satisfied with his Bronze medal.
Up at welterweight (69kg) India’s Manoj Kumar took on England’s Pat McCormack. Kumar landed a nice right hand at the start of the contest before McCormack responded with some solid right hands in an enjoyable opening 3 minutes of action. Again Kumar had his successes in round 2 but the punch picking and sharp shots from McCormack were a delight to watch. Kumar continued to pose questions and push McCormack but the Englishman’s terrific variety of punches saw him claim a fully deserved unanimous points win in what was a wonderfully enjoyable bout.
Vikas Krishan from India then clashed with Northern Ireland’s Steven Donnelly at middleweight (75kg). Donnelly simply out worked Krishan in the opening stanza with the Indian being slow out of the blocks. Krishan dramatically upped the tempo in round 2, scoring with some sizzling combinations to put himself right back in the contest. Donnelly began the last round brightly but a vicious body attack floored the Northern Irishman and from then on Krishan dominated to book his place in the gold medal bout where he’ll meet Cameroon’sDieudonne Wilfried Seyi Ntsengue.
Lastly the super heavyweights (91+kg) came to the ring with Keddy Agnes from the Seychelles up against India’s Satish Kumar. Kumar scored well to the body and visibly hurt Agnes near the end of the opening round. Agnes also suffered a cut in round 1 and his corner threw in the towel at the start of the second, handing Kumar his chance at a gold medal and he’ll be up against England’s Frazer Clarke.
By Marcus Bellinger
The 7th day of action from the Gold Coast saw the rest of the quarter-final bouts and some semi-finals.
First up were the semi-finals in the women’s light flyweight (48kg) with Sri Lanka’s Anusha Dilrukshi Koddithuwakku up against India’s Mary Kom. Kom was happy to sit back and wait for openings which she had no problem finding in the opening stanza. Koddithuwakku showed more aggression in round 2 but Kom slowed the pace and assumed controlled from centre ring. The Sri Lanka tried her best in the third but Kom had too much experience and safely progressed through to the final via unanimous decision where she will vie for gold against Northern Ireland’s Kristina O’Hara.
It was then onto the women’s lightweight (60kg) division as Australia’s Anja Stridsman faced Sarita Devi from India. Stridsman had great success with the jab and right hand in the opening round. Devi came out with intent but Stridsman took back control and dominated the rest of round 2. Devi needed a huge last round and gave it her best but it wasn’t enough and the Australian claimed the deserved unanimous decision to book her spot in the last 4.
In the men’s flyweight (52kg) weight class Papua New Guinea’s Charles Keama squared off against India’s Gaurav Solanki. It was a busy first round from both with Solanki doing enough in the last 30 seconds to take it. Solanki upped the pace in round 2 and scored with numerous beautiful combinations and completely outboxed Keama. Keama was now a frustrated figure and couldn’t deal with the masterful boxing skills of Solanki who sailed through to the semi-finals via shutout.
Staying at flyweight (52kg) Lesotho’s Thabo Molefe was up against Sri Lanka’s M Vidanalange Ishan Bandara. Bandara landed well to head and body early on and did enough to win the first round. The Sri Lankan seem to hurt Molefe in round 2 and was in total command. Molefe flung everything he had at Bandara but the man from Africa fell short and the Sri Lankan made it through to the last 4 with a split decision.
Still in the flyweight (52kg) division Syed Muhammad Asif from Pakistan tangled with Scotland’s Reece McFadden. McFadden was content to fight off the back foot and had more and more success as the opening round progressed. McFadden was setting a puzzle that Asif was struggling to solve and both were deducted points in round 2. Asif came out swinging in the final stanza as the action became more untidy and some eye-catching shots in the final portion of the round sealed McFadden’s place in the last 4.
Finally from the first session India’s Vikas Krishan clashed with Zambia’s Benny Muziyo at middleweight (75kg). Muziyo made a concerted effort to target the body but failed to land with anything significant in the opening round as Krishan showed a good defence. Krishan upped his offense slightly in round 2 whilst still managing to repel the attacks of the Zambian. Krishan landed some nice left hands to the body and stayed out of harm’s way to seal his spot in the semi-finals with a unanimous point’s victory.
The second session began in the women’s flyweight (51kg) division with England’s Lisa Whiteside up against India’s Pinki Rani. Whiteside had great success with straight shots in the opening stanza before Rani responded well in round 2 in what was a highly competitive bout. Whiteside landed some nice chopping right hands and left hooks in the third and her cleaner punching saw her take the split decision and progress onto the semi-finals.
Staying in the women’s flyweight (51kg) category Sri Lanka’s Dulani Jayasinghe took on Christine Ongare from Kenya. The first round saw more missing than actual punches landed and an ankle injury to Jayasinghe was a visible issue. The second round became rather farcical with the Sri Lankan having no balance and eventually after going down for a second time the contest was brought to a halt.
In the quarter-finals of the lightweight (60kg) division India’s Manish Kaushik was up against England’s Calum French. Kaushik flew out of the blocks in the opening round landing with sharp shots to head and body before French came back into proceedings and it was clear this was a battle of highly skilled operators. The pair went tit for tat in round 2 with French probably just edging it. The final 3 minutes was again riveting viewing but the extra work rate in the last round saw Kaushik claim the unanimous decision to move onto the semi-finals.
Finally in the last 8 at light heavyweight (81kg) Pakistan’s Awais Ali Khan took on Ato Plodzicki-Faoagali from Samoa. The bout was honestly lacking in both drama and quality but it was Plodzicki-Faoagali who got the unanimous decision in a fight that could have gone either way.
Courtesy of Marcus Bellinger-
(Ed's note - Sorry this has gone up 1 day late)
The last few days have seen the Commonwealth boxing being staged at the Gold Coast in Australia with today seeing a number of quarter-final bouts taking place.
The first fight of the day had Asian involvement as Sri Lanka’s Keshani Hansika took on New Zealand’s Alexis Pritchard in the women’s 57 KG category. Throughout the 3 rounds both women landed plenty of shots with the right hand proving effective for Hansika and the left hook for Pritchard. After an entertaining contest it was the Kiwi who progressed on a unanimous decision, guaranteeing herself at least a Bronze medal.
In the first of the light flyweight (49 kg) quarter-finals Berry Namri from Vanuatu went up against Sri Lanka’s Thiwanka Ranasinghe. Defences were at a premium over the first 2 rounds with both men going toe-to-toe and Ranasinghe suffering a cut. The Sri Lankan moved a lot more in the final stanza as Namri tired and it was Ranasinghe who got the unanimous decision and will meet England’s Galal Yafai in the semi-finals.
Also at light flyweight India’s Amit faced Aqeel Ahmed from Scotland. Both had their successes in a tight opening round. Ahmed fell short too often in round 2 which allowed Amit to counter effectively and score repeatedly with the southpaw left hand. The Scotsman gave it a go in the final 3 minutes but the quality punches came from Amit who was victorious via split decision and will now meet Uganda’s Juma Miiro in the last 4.
Up at light welterweight (64kg) Sri Lanka’s Dinindu Ponnawela Vidanalage Don squared off with Jonas Jonas from Namibia. Jonas dominated the opening stanza and showed off some nice skills with Vidanalage Don being made to look pretty ordinary. The Sri Lankan struggled to get to grips with the unorthodox approach of Jonas and at the final bell there was no doubting the winner with the Namibian strolling to a unanimous points win.
In the heavyweight (91kg) division India’s Naman Tanwar had Samoan Frank Masoe in the opposite corner. Masoe struggled with Tanwar’s fabulous movement in round 1 and the Indian teenager continued to dazzle in round 2. To his credit Masoe never stopped trying but Tanwar was simply too good and breezed through to the last 4 via unanimous decision and he will next take on Australia’s Jason Whateley.
In the second session of the day at bantamweight (56kg) Evristo Mulenga from Zambia went up against Hussamuddin Mohammed from India. Mohammed scored well with the right hook in the first round before both struggled to connect with anything significant in a close second. Mulenga showed a decent amount of ability but it was Mohammed who went through to the semis on points where he’ll meet Englishman Peter McGrail.
At welterweight (69kg) Australia’s Terry Nickolas took on Manoj Kumar from India. Nickolas was the aggressor from the off but Kumar scored well with left hands to shade the opening round. The experienced India then upped the gears and began to enjoy himself in round 2 with Nickolas unable to close the distance. The home did enjoy some success in the final stanza but it proved not to be enough as Kumar claimed the deserved split decision to move on to a semi-final matchup with England’s Pat McCormack.
Lastly the big men at super heavy (91+kg) entered the ring with India’s Satish Kumar clashing with Nigel Paul from Trinidad and Tobago. Paul managed to land with a solid jab in round 1 with Kumar throwing a number of flurries and showing an excellent work rate for a man of his size. Paul scored with some terrific uppercuts in the second but Kumar to his credit showed no signs of slowing down. Another uppercut from Paul was the highlight of a scrappy final 3 minutes but it was the Indian who got the verdict and he will be up against Keddy Agnes from the Seychelles in the semis.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features