BIRMINGHAM: Ace Indian boxer Shiva Thapa outclassed Pakistan’s Suleman Baloch in the first round of the 63.5kg category bout to begin his Commonwealth Games campaign on a rousing note on Friday.
Having lived with the disappointment of not making his second successive Olympics in Tokyo last year, the former Asian champion was far superior than his taller and aggressive rival to emerge 5-0 winner in his light welterweight category.
The decision from the judges was unanimous at the NEC Arena.
The 28-year-old, who was eliminated in the pre-quarters of Glasgow 2014 in his only CWG appearance prior to these Games, will next face Reese Lynch of Scotland in the round of 16 on Sunday.
This also kicked off India’s campaign in the boxing ring, where they have some exciting prospects in reigning world champion Nikhat Zareen, Olympic medallist Lovlina Borgohain and world championship silver medallist Amit Panghal.
India would look to eclipse their Gold Coast’s record tally of three gold, three silver and three bronze medals.
From the highs of winning a World Championship bronze in 2015, to the debacle at the 2016 Rio Olympics, followed by his failure to make the Tokyo Games, the Guwahati boxer’s life has come a full cycle.
His current season also began on a disappointing note, having made a quarterfinal exit in the World Championships in Belgrade, while at the prestigious Strandja he returned medal less, but Thapa is determined to win his maiden CWG medal.
“Definitely it — a CWG medal — motivates me a lot. It’s a very individual thing, sometimes pressure works and then you have the responsibility,” Thapa said after his win.
“We are all elite athletes here, representing our country. Everyone is hoping to win a gold medal here,” the five-time Asian Championships medallist added.
The nimble-footed Thapa was at his calculative best against his Pakistani opponent who started off aggressively, exploiting his height to the fullest.
An agile Thapa ensured that his opponent had some misses up front to tire him out before going for the kill, bringing all his experience to play from second round onwards.
He landed some quick jabs as the Pakistani lost control for a split second in the remaining minutes, and there was no way out for Thapa.
“It was about maintaining our defence well. We did not want to go for the aggressive hooks and upper cut up front,” India coach Narender Rana, who helped Thapa in his formative years at the Army Sports Institute Pune, said.
ding against injury was the main thing in our agenda. He has a long way to go here — four more bouts to be precise,” he summed up Thapa’s gold medal ambition at the ongoing CWG.