There wasn’t quite the high-octane India-Pakistan vibe a hockey or cricket fan would relate to, but the flurry of punches exchanged between former Asian championship gold medallist Shiva Thapa and seven-time Pakistan national champion Suleman Baloch lit up the boxing ring at the National Exhibition Centre Hall 4 in Birmingham on Friday.
In the end, Shiva had the last laugh, walking away with a clinical win by unanimous verdict in the round of 32 clash of the men’s 63.5kg light welterweight category at the Commonwealth Games.
The 28-year-old former world championship bronze medallist looked composed as he walked into the ring. He meant business from the very first round. He began with a flurry of left jabs that landed straight on Baloch’s face. Thapa looked in total control and with just a few seconds left, Baloch tried to make a comeback but he was barely able to connect with his punches, resulting in a convincing 5-0 win in favour of the Indian.
The second round witnessed a similar start with Thapa once again taking the upper hand with his early blows landing straight on a clueless Baloch.
The Pakistani boxer’s inexperience and lack of exposure in big-ticket events was clearly evident as he switched to a defensive mode towards the end of the round. The second round fetched a similar fate for the Pakistani, with all the five judges rewarding 10 points each to Shiva, resulting in yet another 5-0 win. Baloch also had one point deducted as he was warned in the second round.
Thapa conserved all his energy for the third round even as danced around the ring to avoid Baloch’s punches. With hardly any time left for a comeback, a frustrated Baloch lunged forward to punch Thapa but the Pakistani pugilist fell on the canvas.
Towards the end, both boxers managed to land a couple of straight jabs at each other, but by then it was too late for Baloch, as all the five referees awarded Shiva with 10 points each, paving the way for the Assam boxer’s smooth passage to the pre-quarterfinals. In the round of 16, a tricky bout awaits Thapa next against 2021 world championship bronze medallist Reese Lynch of Scotland on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Scottish southpaw needed only a couple of minutes to outclass Timon Aaree of Kiribati in his round of 32 clash on Friday. On Saturday, Tokyo bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain (women’s 70kg), Gold Coast bronze medallist Mohammed Hussamuddin (men’s 57kg), Asian champion Sanjeet (91kg) will be in action.

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By Dipak

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