Debutant Akash Kumar (54kg) finished with a bronze medal at the AIBA Men’s World Boxing Championships in Belgrade after a defeat against Kazakh teenager Makhmud Sabyrkhan in the semifinals on Thursday.

The 20-year-old Akash, playing in his debut World Championships as well as his first major international tournament, lost 0-5 to end India’s campaign in the marquee competition, where he became only the seventh Indian male boxer to secure a medal. He will claim a prize money of $25,000.

With this loss, Indian challenge came to an end at the 21st edition of the tournament

Creative courtesy: Boxing Federation of India

The Indian started superbly in the first round but Sabyrkhan got his measure in a matter of seconds, scoring primarily with his fantastic right crosses to slow down Akash after the early burst.

The 19-year-old Kazakh, who is the reigning national champion of his country, was the less exuberant of the two as the bout went on but was clinical in his execution, not letting slip any chances at scoring off counter-attacks.

Sabyrkhan clinched the opening round unanimously and maintained the lead in the second round as well even though Akash gave a much better account of himself by managing to trouble the Kazakh with his jabs. However, Sabyrkhan was not to be fazed by Akash’s sporadic shots. It was a 4-1 round for the Kazakh boxer but perhaps it didn’t reflect his improvement.

The boxer from Bhiwani gave it his all but somehow fell short when it came to matching up with the speed and accuracy as the southpaw Sabyrkhan capitalised onto the momentum in the final round to complete victory by unanimous decision.

Despite the loss, Akash can be proud of the fantastic performance in his maiden senior international competition. Akash had upstaged former Olympic silver-medallist Yoel Finol Rivas of Venezuela in the quarterfinals.

A product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, the Services boxer lost his mother to a lung infection in September and competed in the national championships unaware of the tragedy. His father died more than a decade back after initiating him to boxing and his brother is in jail since 2017 in connection with a murder case, reported PTI.

In all, five Indians made the quarterfinals but four of them, including 2015 bronze-winner Shiva Thapa (63.5kg) and reigning Asian champion Sanjeet (92kg) lost in the quarterfinal stage.

India had secured an unprecedented silver through Amit Panghal in the event’s previous edition, while Manish Kaushik had claimed a bronze. India’s previous medal winners at the World Championships were Vijender Singh (Bronze, 2009), Vikas Krishan (Bronze, 2011), Thapa (Bronze, 2015), Gaurav Bidhuri (Bronze, 2017), Panghal (Silver, 2019) and Kaushik (Bronze, 2019).

The gold winners at the showpiece will walk away with a prize money of $100,000. The silver medallists are to be given $50,000, and both bronze-medallists will be awarded $25,000 each. The total prize purse stands at a whopping $2.6 million.

India were being represented by its reigning national champions across weight categories.

With PTI and Boxing Federation of India inputs