Nepal break 20-year boxing jinx as Thapa, Gurung win goldsBhupendra Thapa stuns India's Commonwealth silver medalist, while Minu Gurung becomes first Nepali female boxer to win South Asian Games title.
Nepal broke the 20-year boxing jinx in the South Asian Games on Monday, as Bhupendra Thapa quelled the challenge of India's Manish Kaushik, a Commonwealth Games silver medalist.
Earlier on Monday, Minu Gurung became the first-ever Nepali woman boxer to win a gold in the regional sporting spectacle with the hosts adding four gold medals on the penultimate day of the 13th South Asian Games, taking their tally to a record 49 gold medals.
Having lost twice to Indian boxers, Thapa was keen to get the monkey off his back. And when that opportunity came calling, the 30-year-old Nepali pugilist was well prepared.
"The defeats in 2017and 2018 to Indian opponents in the All India Boxing Championships have motivated me to work hard. I was determined to beat them and eventually fulfilled my ambition," said the 30-year-old Nepali Police constable after the men's light welterweight (64kg) final bout.
It was also Nepal's first boxing gold in two decades since Prakash Thapa Magar, the current coach, and Ram Chandra Thapa Magar won gold medals when the country hosted the Games in 1999.
Thapa started off aggressively against his physically superior opponent, following a strategy he and his coach Prakash Thapa Magar had devised ahead of the final bout.
Thapa gave very little room for Kaushik to play freely, which proved crucial in earning a close 29-28 decision against the Indian boxer, who had won the bronze medal at the World Championships in September.
"He played according to the in-fight (playing closely) as we had planned. That way, not only did he shackle the Indian boxer but also managed to land his punches where he wanted to," coach Thapa Magar noted.
A long-closed camp, coupled with two months' intensive training in Thailand were major contributing factors for the stunning victory, Thapa said.
Watching his Indian rival's video footage before the final bout did not hurt Thapa either. "I had been following him and watching his video clips," said Thapa, who has won the national championships for eight years on the trot.
Meanwhile in the women’s corner, Gurung registered unanimous victory over Shiksha of India in the bantamweight (54kg) final. Four judges awarded Gurung 30 against 27 points of her Indian opponents while she got 29 against 28 from one.
Gurung, also the bronze medalist of the last Games in India, started playing games since last nine years inspired by her elder brother. “Mental toughness was key to my success. Not only our training was focused on the physical aspect, but they have also motivated us to be mentally strong,” said the 29-year-old Nepal Army boxer.
The double gold medals have rekindled hopes of Nepali boxers redeeming their reputation as top contenders in the regional arena.
Olympian and former boxer Umesh Maskey believes that the gold medal in the Games after two decades will help revive the image of boxing at the South Asian level.
"Hopefully we will win more gold medals tomorrow. The top-podium finish we secured today will definitely give a massive boost to Nepali boxing," said Maskey, who is also the former president of Nepal Boxing Association.
But there still are a lot of things to do to revive Nepal’s image in boxing, said Maskey, the bronze medalist at the 1980 Asian Boxing Championships. He also explained some of the technical aspects that those in the Nepali boxing quarters need to work on.
"The coaches need to know the new trends in boxing and it is essential that they get acquainted with those trends. Definitely, we have the potential to take boxing to another level."
Two other Nepali women boxer Lalita Maharjan and Sangita Sunar had to settle for silver after losing their bouts to Indian rivals. Maharjan went down to Kalaivani Srinivasan in light flyweight (48kg) division, while Sunar lost her lightweight (60kg) bout to India's Parveena as India registered six boxing final wins on the day. Five Nepali pugilists—three male and two female—will be in action in five out of the eight gold medal bouts on Tuesday.