He may have missed the party Down Under, but Shiva Thapa is in no mood to let it become the status quo. Ready to plot a comeback to India’s first-string squad, the two-time Olympian will take part in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) clash with Russia’s Patriot Boxing Team on Saturday. Shiva, who took part in the semi-professional tournament in 2014, losing two bouts for the USA Knockouts, will make his debut for the Indian Tigers, the home nation’s franchise.
“This is going to be a good competition for us. Hosting top Russians is also a platform for our boxers to make a mark, so I am definitely excited for this,” said Shiva, at Friday’s weighing-in ceremony. After switching from 56kg to 60kg category, the world championships bronze medallist and three-time Asian medallist struggled with patchy form, losing two bouts and the lightweight Commonwealth Games berth to young upstart Manish Kaushik. Shiva, however, says staying in the doldrums was never an option.
“That’s life. The ups and downs, the disappointments are all there. It was not very easy, but if you start thinking it is tough, it will be tough. You need to keep the focus, and be around your well-wishers who will be there to guide you,” says the 24-year-old. “Of course, the aim is to now make the Asian Games team.” Men’s high performance director Santiago Nieva, who will lead the team in his first WSB outing, maintains Shiva remains part of the plans, despite Kaushik clinching a silver at Gold Coast.
“It will be a clean slate. Shiva is always in contention. He is a world class boxer and has proven himself before. For Commonwealth, at the particular moment, we had another boxer who was looking really well and had beaten Shiva,” said Nieva. “But he is is raring to go, and I am sure he will do all he can to take his spot in the Asian Games squad.” In addition to Thapa, world championships quarter-finalist Kavinder Bisht (52kg) and 2014 Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Mandeep Jangra (75kg) will feature in WSB bouts over the weekend. While Shiva and Bisht will be joined by Duryodhan Negi (69kg), Brijesh Yadav (81kg) and Narender (+91kg) against the Russians, Mandeep will team up with Shyam Kumar Kakara (49kg), Muhammed Etash Khan (56kg), Rohit Tokas (64kg) and Sanjeet (91kg) to take on the China Dragons outfit on Sunday.
“These matches are extremely important for our second-string boxers. This will provide them motivation after they couldn’t make it to the Commonwealth Games, but you still have some good competition,” said Nieva. “The boxers are playing in the big leagues. Because of the Commonwealth Games, we didn’t give WSB priority this season. But next year, this will be our aim as we would look to qualify to the world championships and the Olympics through this. “This experience is also very important in the sense that they will be fighting five rounds instead of three.” Since adopting the no-headgear policy and the 10-point-must scoring system, amateur boxing has strongly resembled the professional stream. WSB, however, remains in-between, with bare-chested boxers fighting for five rounds. Nieva says the two additional rounds usually drain the ill-prepared.
“You have to pace yourself better. You can’t come out blasting. The hard punches, body shots have a lot more effect,” said Nieva. “But a top amateur boxer should anyway be prepared to fight five rounds. Professional is tougher, because when you talk about 8-10 rounds, that is a bigger difference.” Shiva has been putting in the hours.
“I had a slight issue with my wrist. But I’ve been training hard for a month and I feel good. When we are getting ready for a big event, we spar for 4-5 rounds. But competitive five-round fight is the ultimate challenge for an amateur boxer. If we can get used to this, three rounds are going to be easier.” With the squad for Asian Games likely to be announced in the first week of July, Shiva has little more than two months to strengthen his claim. A strong showing on Saturday will go a long way.
Venue changed amid heat concerns
The venue for Saturday’s Indian Tigers-Russia Patriot Boxing Team WSB clash was changed after the Russian outfit expressed concerns about the outdoor setting for the five bouts.
“The boxers were not comfortable fighting in the outdoor heat, so we requested for an air-conditioned venue,” said an official with the Russian contingent. The evening clash was shifted out of Greater Noida’s Amity University courtyard to a hotel in the area. Sunday’s match with the China Dragons team will be organised at the original venue.
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