Amit Panghal’s Gujarat Giants crowned Big Bout League champions

Pugilists Ashish Kumar and Manoj Kumar were the star performers for the winning franchise.

By Saurabh Shankar

It was a day of riveting boxing drama at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi Stadium, as the Gujarat Giants were crowned inaugural champions of the Big Bout League. Amit Panghal’s franchise narrowly edged the Punjab Panthers 4-3 in the final to claim the trophy, thanks to stellar performances from Ashish Kumar and Manoj Kumar.

Doot debutises diligently

The final started off with the women’s 51kg bout between Rajesh Narwal and Darshana Doot. Deputising for a still injured MC Mary Kom, Doot made a promising start for the Punjab Panthers. Playing on the defensive, the young pugilist did well to evade most of the attacks of Narwal in the first round.

Narwal however found her groove as the bout carried on, striking with a sweet combination of punches to gain the upper hand. Doot came back strong in the final round, as she started on the front foot from the very beginning, connecting with a few jabs and even managing to floor her opponent on one occasion. That strong finish paid dividends as the Punjab Panthers pugilist claimed a win with a 4-1 split majority verdict. 

Punjab Panthers soon got a 2-0 lead in the final as A. Khalakov won his bout against Chirag with another split majority victory.

Manoj Kumar pulls one back 

The Gujarat Giants got their first win in the final in the men’s 69kg category, as the 2010 Commonwealth Games medallist Manoj Kumar showed his experience and class in a closely contested bout against Ashish Kulheria. 

Both pugilists traded plenty of blows in this bout, as the fighters looked visibly fatigued by the third round. Manoj Kumar was more clinical with his punches, landing most of his attacks while efficiently defending when necessary to avoid the full wrath of Kulheria. For his tactical superiority, Manoj bagged a 5-0 unanimous victory to get his franchise back in the contest. 

Panghal remains undefeated

Having been rested for two of the past three Gujarat Giants matches, skipper Amit Panghal was lively and energetic throughout his men’s 52kg bout against PL Prasad. World Championships silver medallist Amit Panghal's quick movements and rapid punches gave him the advantage in the opening bout, and his dominance continued as Prasad’s defensive approach ending up quashing his chances of winning the bout.

There were very few clear punches in this match-up, but all the attacking came from Amit Panghal, who claimed a 5-0 unanimous victory to get the score to two apiece in the final.

Laishram Sarita Devi (right) suffered a shock defeat in the final of the Big Bout League

The fifth bout however saw Punjab Panthers regain their advantage in the final, as Sonia Lather sprang a surprise by defeating veteran pugilist Laishram Sarita Devi in the women’s 60kg category. It was a closely contested bout where neither boxer held back, but Lather connected with most of her blows and claimed a slender 3-2 split decision victory. 

Fiery finish

Britain’s veteran boxer Scott Forrest brought his best to the table as he outpunched opponent Naveen Kumar in the men’s 91kg category. The overseas pugilist connected with a few lusty blows in the first and second round, and showed his experience to play on the defensive in the final round, to gain a 4-1 split majority victory.

That win for Forrest meant that the final of the inaugural edition of the Big Bout League was to be decided by the last bout between Ashish Kumar of Gujarat Giants and Yashpal of the Punjab Panthers in the men’s 75kg category. Rising to the occasion, both pugilists were full of energy as they punched with great vigour and ferocity. 

Ashish Kumar fared marginally better after two rounds, as he pushed his opponent to a corner and attacked relentlessly on a few occasions. Trusting his reflexes, Ashish left his face unguarded for the most part, enticing his opponent to attack so as to cop a few blows on the counter. That sustained aggression was noted by the judges, who unanimously awarded the game to the Gujarat Giants, enabling them to win the first ever title of the Big Bout League.