An elusive win and some revenge are what the Indian Tigers would be aiming for when it takes on Russia’s Patriot Boxing Team in the World Series of Boxing’s (WSB) home leg encounter, on Saturday, with former Asian champion Shiva Thapa (60kg) and Kavinder Bisht (52kg) being the top draws.
A bit of sparring started, even before the first ring of the bell, when the Russian team objected to the outdoor venue picked for the five bouts in Noida, insisting that the prevailing hot weather conditions would pose a health risk to its boxers.
“It is about the boxers’ health. We want an air-conditioned hall. The outdoor facility is not conducive,” the Russian team’s vice-Manager, Andrei Andreev, said.
The Indians relented a rather warm gesture, given that it is not common to extend such last-minute courtesies to a touring side. “We don’t get such treatment when we travel to these countries. We, on the other hand, are always generous in these matters, but it is not reciprocated mostly,” said one of the coaches involved in the weekend bouts, which also involves China’s franchise.
India has so far fought against Kazakhstan’s Astana Arlans, both home and away, and the Patriot Team, away. The results, however, have been losses on all three occasions, though the gallant effort, in the 2-3 home loss to Kazakhstan, was noteworthy.
“It is not an easy format and we are in our opening season. Hopefully, we are going to find our bearings and get better results,” India’s High-Performance Director, Santiago Nieva, basking in the glory of an unprecedented nine-medal haul at the recent Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Gold Coast, said.
The Indians had gone down 1-4 in the away leg against Russia, with Sachin Siwach (49kg) being the only winner. The team for Saturday's encounter features the experienced duo of Shiva and Kavinder. Kavinder, a world championships quarter-finalist, has made a solid WSB foray, winning the only bout he has competed in, against Kazakhstan.
Shiva, on the other hand, is making a comeback of sorts, after missing out on selection for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. His first tryst with the WSB was back in 2014, when he made a couple of appearances for USA Knockouts, both ending in losses.
“My WSB record is not that great, but I am going make it good now. I am quite determined and confident of performing strongly,” said one of India’s only four boxers to have a world championships medal to his credit.
The three-time Asian medallist, who has won gold, bronze and silver, in three back-to-back appearances, at the marquee continental event, is also drawing confidence from his improved fitness.
“There was a wrist issue that was troubling me, but I am fine now,” he said, ahead of his contest, against southpaw Shamil Askerov, a 23-year-old showman, who drew attention with his flamboyance, in Friday's weigh-in. The others, in the Indian team, include national medallist Duryodhan Singh (69kg), Brijesh Yadav (81kg) and Narender (+91kg).
For the tie against China Dragons, on Sunday, the Indian team comprises King’s Cup gold-medallist K. Shyam Kumar (49kg), Muhammed Etash Khan (56kg), Rohit Tokas (64kg), former CWG silver-medallist Mandeep Jangra (75kg) and Sanjeet (91kg).
Sanjeet, a gold-medallist at the India Open, had won his previous WSB bout, against defending champions Astana Arlans and was declared the winner for this weekend’s clash too, as the Chinese squad does not have a heavyweight boxer in its line-up.
The Chinese team is also winless in the competition, managing to win just one bout, in its clashes against Kazakhstan and Russia, so far.
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