Devendro Singh’s second-round knockdown of Scottish Aqeel Ahmed in the light fly quarterfinals of Commonwealth Games will stay etched in the minds of all those who were present at Glasgow’s Exhibition Centre, for very long. It wasn’t just the ferocious flurry that he unleashed with his speedy combinations leading upto that moment where a halfway-hard left uppercut sent the home challenger stuttering backwards, and smack down on his bum. It was Devendro’s immediate reaction after that: he walked away regally from the scene of his destruction, clinically even, to stand apart and coolly view the partisan crowd that had now hushed up.
Sensing the inevitable, they could only grimace with their boxer as he copped more of the same gust of punching, and waited for the squall to end in the next few minutes, and an unanimous decision to end the agony. It must’ve felt like keeping track of the three blades of the ceiling fan as they pick up speed, and giving up, as Ahmed did handing Devendro an assured bronze, as the Manipuri led India’s fightback after a string of losses on Tuesday.
“Every boxer wants to end the bout early, and that second round punch was me trying to finish things off,” he said later, adding he was happy he’d picked his first CWG medal, but was very focussed on winning the big
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Devendro had rendered a taller opponent utterly helpless, and at Glasgow, it needed a commanding, crystal-clear sort of domination to negate the home
advantage that boxers from “Home Nations” as they call them — Wales, Northern Ireland, England and Scotland — enjoy.
Manoj, Sumit lose
In fact it was two Manipuri boxers who led India’s fightback a night after the likes of Manoj Kumar and Sumit Sangwan — the latter in what was immensely suspect decisioning after he looked clearly on top — had lost. Sangwan can feel hard done by because his tactical ploy of long-range boxing seemed to be working with the economical punches, but it was looking grim after six boxers lost in two days — including women’s Pooja Rani, decimated by an English opponent
It was left to the senior-most women’s boxer – Sarita Devi Laishram, in fact, to register the first win for India against a Home Nations boxer, two hours before Devendro.
With her back against the wall and trailing in the first round — though coach Hemlata and Gurbax sandhu didn’t tell her that — against Welsh opponent Charlene Jones, Sarita Devi effected the most stunning turn-around, again in Round 2, when she changed gears in a heart-beat and launched an offensive that left the judges with no option but to hand her a 2-1 win on points (115-113).
Round 1 had seen the Welsh girl — nine years Sarita Devi’s junior — narrowly ahead. But Sarita Devi launched a feral counter-attack, starting from one end of the ring, where she was cornered, to liberate herself from the ring of the Welsh girl’s clinch and strike back. “We knew once she starts retreating she fumbles,” Hemlata said, adding that Sarita Devi fought back with a forward march that set the tone for the rest of the bout. “Her straight punches and combinations of 4-5 are well known, we mix it up with some hooks, but today it was just the forward attack,” she added.
The Welsh woman almost reeled back in defense, and was never quite comfortable when pinned down as the imposing figure of Sarita Devi loomed on top of her, the punches following her like lashing winds of the Highlands. “After first round, I thought of my little boy back home, who I’ve not seen for four months. I want that gold for him. I couldn’t lose today,” Sarita Devi said, adding the aggression came from a single-minded goal to hit back and bully by moving front.
She meets Mozambique’s Maria Machongua, and alongside Pinki Jangra who also disposed off her Papua New Guinea opponent with a typically aggressive bout, will hope to play the final. “I wanted to show the world my moves, and how dominant I can be. It was a statement to warn my next opponents that I’m ready for them,” said Pinki, who comes to Glasgow on the back of beating MC Marykom in the qualifying meet back home.
“I know it’s a small window for me to prove myself and that Mary will be back, but I want to show them I hit hard,” she said, after leaving Jacquiline Wangi unsteady on her feet and winning 120-103. She plays Northern Ireland’s Michaela Walsh next. “I’m here for gold, I’ll prepare well for the home boxers.”