Shillong, Dec 1: The mighty Services Sports Control Board were named Best Team (in picture) at the closing ceremony of the 7th Elite Men’s National Boxing Championship, which came to a fitting end at the SAI Indoor Hall here on Friday, as they ruled the finals and won 10 title fights.
Such was the dominance of Services that their boxers reached 12 out of the 13 finals and won 10 out of the 12 they contested.
All the finals across the 13 weight classes were held today, with big names like Shiva Thapa of Assam, Amit Panghal of Services and Sanjeet of Services winning. The seven days of action have given sports fans of Meghalaya a chance to witness boxing of the highest calibre that has not been seen in Shillong since the South Asian Games 2016.
The event began on November 25 and was organised successfully by the Meghalaya Boxing Association (MBA), Boxing Federation of India (BFI) and Department of Sports and Youth Affairs, Government of Meghalaya.
Dignitaries present on the final day included Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Shakliar Warjri, MLA of Mawlai Brightstarwell Marbaniang, Secretary General of the BFI Hemanta Kumar Kalita and Working President of the Meghalaya State Olympic Association John F Kharshiing, among others.
Nine Meghalaya boxers took part in the national event and two were able to reach the pre-quarterfinals and their determination to get even further in future and develop their boxing skills will have grown after seeing the best in the country at such close quarters.
That inspiration for the state athletes is one of the reasons the state government has brought several such national events to Shillong in recent years. That, coupled with the development of sports infrastructure and scientific identification and training of sportspersons forms the comprehensive strategy to improve Meghalaya’s sporting performance and, ultimately, to get athletes from the state to qualify for the Olympic Games.
“I am very happy to see that the collaboration between the MBA, BFI and Government has resulted in a very successful tournament,” Warjri said in his speech. “Since I became a minister a few months ago, I have travelled around the state and interacted with so many youths and athletes. The government sees a great potential within them and we are working together with the youth and sports associations to see that sports will grow. That is our aim and that is our commitment.”
The minister also mentioned the scientific approach the state is taking, wherein 14,500 young athletes have been put through standardised tests, out of which 200 were shortlisted under the Elite Pathway Programme. Twelve from the 200 have now been selected for the Super Elite Pathway Programme.
Each boxer came through four fights to get to the final and most of the bouts on Friday ended by unanimous decision by the judges.
The day started with Services’ Barun Singh defeating Yaiphaba Soibam of Manipur by 5-0 in the 46-48kg category, followed by 2019 World Championships silver medalist Amit Panghal (Services) beating Anshul Punia of Chandigarh by the same margin in the flyweight 48-51kg.
Lalit of All India Police was the first to defeat a Services boxer, winning a brutally close final of the bantam 51-54kg category by split decision 4-3 against Pawan.
The featherweight 54-57kg final saw two Sachins fight each other for the gold, with that of Services defeating that of Railways. Then followed the lightweight 57-60kg final, which saw another win for Services over Railways, this time by Akash over Varinder Singh.
Shiva Thapa of Assam was the second fighter to defeat a Services’ boxer, in the light welterweight 60-63.5kg class. He and Vanshaj really slugged it out in Rounds 2 and 3 and it seemed like the judges’ decision could go either way but they all found in favour of the more experienced Thapa.
Services got back to winning ways after that, taking all of the next six finals.
In the welterweight 63.5-67kg, Rajat defeated Abhishek Yadav of Railways, while Akash defeated Abhinab Saikia of Assam (later awarded Best Challenger Boxer) in the light middleweight 67-71kg category. In the middleweight 71-75kg category Deepak took down Ishmeet Singh of Railways and Lakshya then inflicted defeat on the up and coming Harsh Choudhary of Rajasthan in the light heavyweight 75-80kg. All these results were by 5-0 margins.
The 11th fight of the day was in the cruiserweight 80-86kg class and here Vishal of Haryana started out the stronger pugilist before Jugnoo of Services landed several good blows in the last round and a half to claim victory 5-2.
Sanjeet, the 2021 Asian Champion, of Services won in the heavyweight 86-92kg class 5-0 against the taller Naveen Kumar of Haryana and the championship was brought to a stunning end by the super heavyweight 92kg-plus title fight between Sagar of Railways and Jaipal Singh of Punjab.
Here Sagar, the 2022 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, seemed to have the better of his opponent only for Jaipal to land a ferocious right punch out of nowhere to the head of Sagar in the third round. The Railways man swayed on his unsteady feet and, despite wanting to go on, the referee counted him out.
Services, understandably picked up the Best Team award at the closing ceremony, with the team’s Akash named Best Boxer and their coach Jai Patil was adjudged Best Coach. Railways were the runners-up and there were also individual awards for Abhinab Saikia of Assam (Best Challenger Boxer) and Pradeep Bisht (Best Official). Meghalaya was given the award for Fair Play.
The super efforts of the boxers made this tournament a treat to watch and, coupled with the dedication and hard work of the MBA, BFI, officials of the Department of Sports and Youth Affairs and volunteers, was another successfully organised prestigious event hosted by the state.