These pugilists tried their best to clinch medals at the tournament.

The 2021 AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships being held in Belgrade, Serbia has reached its final stages. The tournament which began on October 25, will come full circle on November 6. It will also give us the final gold and silver medal winners but unfortunately for India, the nation’s run in the tournament has officially come to a stop.

The Indian boxers would be missing out on silver and gold medals. For the first time of the tournament’s 75 year history, the winners would also be receiving prize money. The winners will get a grand prize of $100,000, the runners-up will receive $50,000 and the bronze medalists will obtain $25,000. So, it’s a considerate blow in financial terms as well.

However, it wasn’t an all empty-handed affair for the Indian boxing contingent. There was a silver lining as well with some promising performances. Let’s take a look at some of those boxers who were the standout performers for India at the tournament.

5. Narender Berwal

Super heavyweight boxer Narender Berwal made quite a start in his division at the World Boxing Championships. He registered some big wins with two of them being referee stoppages. Hailing from Hisar, the boxer started his campaign on a high with victories over Oskar Safaryan, Mohamed Kendeh and Jahon Qurbonov.

However, things changed for the Indian boxer in the quarter-finals. Berwal met Azerbaijan’s Mahammad Abdullayev and fell short of his marker. The South Asian gold medalist looked out of sorts against his opponent who started out fast. Abdullayev controlled the bout till the very last minute and Berwal’s patches skill wasn’t enough to secure the win.

The judges scored the bout in Abdullayev’s favour, declaring him the winner with unanimous decision. The final result was a 0-5 loss for Berwal.

4. Nishant Dev

Dev impressed everyone with his performance at the tournament (Photo credits: BFI)

Tournament debutant Nishant Dev participated in the 71kg light-middleweight division. Dev did not struggle with nerves at the early stages as he beat his first two opponents with quite a margin. He also looked convincing in his 5-0 and 4-1 wins against Laszlo Kozak and Merven Clair respectively.

However, the third round bout became a little competitive. Mexico’s Marco Verde put up a fight against the Indian boxer. However in the end, Dev edged him with a point. The fight ended with a 3-2 scoreline with Dev heading for the quarter-finals of the World Boxing Championships. He faced Russian Federation’s Vadim Musaev in the last-eight of the competition.

That match with Musaev saw the Indian pugilist struggling for openings. Dev who had made a great comeback win against Verde could not do so here with India missing out on a medal yet again at the quarter-finals.

3. Sanjeet Kumar

Another big boy apart from Narender Berwal who crashed out of the last-eight was heavyweight Sanjeet Kumar. Hailing from Haryana, the boxer also fell at the quarter-finals stage against Italy’s Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine. The Italian boxer was flawless in his performance as he registered a 5-0 win over Sanjeet.

Despite his loss at the quarter-final stage, Sanjeet’s performance at the tournament was decent and will give him a lot of confidence going ahead. His victories over Russia’s Andrei Stotskii and Georgia’s Giorgi Tchidladze would attest to the fact.

2. Shiva Thapa

Thapa crashed out of the tournament in the quarter-final stage (Photo courtesy: BFI)

Among all Indian participants, Shiva Thapa might have been the boxer who was probably carrying the biggest weight on his shoulders. Thapa is a former bronze medal winner at the World Boxing Championships. He was looking to double his tally but sadly it was not meant to be. Drawing on his vast experience, he demonstrated his wide range of skills to reach the quarter-finals. He defeated France’s Lounes Hamraoui 4-1 in a highly entertaining bout.

The Indian was at his deceptive best, combining feints with heavy punches. He moved fluidly and never allowed his opponent to find rhythm, picking up the win inevitably. His defeat against Turkey’s Kerem Ozmen was shocking.

The 0-5 loss meant Shiva Thapa missed out on his chance of being the only Indian boxer to win a double medal at the tournament.

1. Akash Kumar

India’s hopes for a medal at the World Boxing Championships finally came to fruition when Akash Kumar reached the semi-finals. A hurdle that the rest of his teammates were unable to cross. However, Akash did it with finesse with a 5-0 win over Venezuela’s Yoel Finol.

Akash endured a 0-5 loss against Kazakhstan’s Makhmud Sabyrkhan in the semi-finals of the 54kg bantamweight category. Participating in his debut World Championships, the Indian boxer started the bout aggressively. The first round saw both participants trading heavy blows. However, the Kazakh boxer looked in a better position with relentless punches which put the Indian on the backfoot at the end of a pulsating opening round.

Akash tried making a comeback in the second round and showcased some brilliant skills to overcome Sabyrkhan. The Bhiwani-based boxer gave it all but somehow fell short when it came to matching up with the speed and accuracy of Sabyrkhan. The southpaw capitalised onto the momentum in the final round to clinch the victory by an unanimous decision.

This was India’s seventh medal at one of the biggest boxing events in the world as Akash joined the elite list of boxers that includes Amit Panghal (silver in 2019), Vijender Singh (bronze in 2009), Vikas Krishan (bronze in 2011), Shiva Thapa (bronze in 2015), Gaurav Bidhuri (bronze in 2017) and Manish Kaushik (bronze in 2019) – who have won medals for India at the Men’s World Boxing Championships in the past.

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