Gujarat Giants, led by skipper Amit Panghal, pulled off a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over Punjab Panthers in a high-voltage final to win the inaugural Big Bout Indian Boxing League in New Delhi on Saturday.
Darshana Doot (women’s 51kg) and Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Abdulmalik Khalakov (57kg) scored well-crafted victories to put Panthers 2-0 ahead, but the Ashish Kulheria (69kg) and Panghal (52kg) hauled the Giants back on track in the pulsating final.
The spirited and efficient Sonia Lather’s split verdict win against legendary Sarita Devi in the classic women’s 60kg bout took the Panthers one victory away from the crown.
But the Giants’ heavyweight import from Scotland, Scott Forrest dished out a gutsy show to take the contest into the final bout of the boxing extravaganza. Ashish Kumar then beat Yashpal in the climactic 75kg battle as Gujarat Giants took home the winners’ trophy.
Ashish made use of his superior bodyweight and ring-craft to give Yashpal a few lessons. To the credit of the Indian Universities 69kg champion, he took the punishment pretty well and stretched Ashish into the third round.
Earlier, a string of three losses did not deter the left-handed Darshana Doot when she stepped into the ring on Saturday night. She had been roped in when Punjab Panthers skipper MC Mary Kom faced a back problem.
From the first moment, she showcased her eagerness to sign off with a win against Rajesh Narwal. She executed her plans well and exerted her domination to secure a 4-1 verdict. The twinkle-toed and supremely confident Khalakov, who had lost to Chirag in the league stage, came with a specific plan.
He lost no time in landing punches, taking Chirag by surprise to make a strong impression on the judges in the opening round. The Indian clawed back with counter-attacking tactics in the second round, forcing Khalakov to back-pedal in defence.
However, the young Uzbek star was ready with his own tactics in the final round, cramping Chirag’s hooks and using a combination of jabs and upper cuts to complete a unanimous verdict. The manner in which he controlled the pace of the bout was admirable and he deserved to celebrate with a couple of back-flips when the result was announced.
Asian Championship medallist Ashish Kulheria’s win against the evergreen Manoj Kumar did not come as a surprise since the Panthers’ star was fighting his second strenuous bout inside 24 hours. Kulheria moved deftly through the bout in which Manoj could not find the rhythm or the space that he was looking for to make an impression on the judges.
Panghal walked in as favourite to beat PL Prasad a second time in the Big Bout and he crafted a unanimous victory. Prasad’s challenge was greater since he had to work harder in the ring to make an impression on the judges against a boxer who used his technique with great efficiency and productively.
Sonia Lather beat Sarita Devi in an intense battle that was as much with the mind as with the gloved fists.In what was the best contest of the night, Sonia Lather did well to gain the upperhand in the first round. She stayed in front, though the vastly experienced Sarita Devi was not giving up till the last moment.
With his team facing a do-or-die situation, Scott made light of a bleeding cut on his temple early in his fight to eke out a very important win. He was light on his feet and landed heavy punches through the slightest of gaps in the Indian heavyweight’s guard and emerged a comfortable winner in the end.