Formidable Gujarat Giants, spurred by a stunning win for Chirag in the opening bout, adopted a business-like approach and stormed to the top of the league table with a 5-2 victory over Mary Kom-led Punjab Panthers in the Big Bout Indian Boxing League at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium Complex in Noida tonight.

Though the legendary Mary Kom and birthday boy Manoj Kumar helped Punjab Panthers stay afloat after Gujarat Giants opened with wins in the first three bouts, the Amit Panghal-led outfit sealed a morale-boosting victory when veteran Sarita Devi upstaged a zestful Manisha in the women’s 60kg bout.

Skipper Mary Kom believed she had done Punjab Panthers a favour by blocking the 91kg bout, thus denying Gujarat Giants the chance to pick up a point through British champion Scott Forrest. But, she was in for a shock when her team-mate Abdulmalik Khalakov was out-thought and beaten on points by Gujarat Giants’ Chirag in the 57kg bout.

Preferred ahead of Mohammed Husamuddin in the line-up, Chirag brought his A game against the Youth Olympic Games champion from Khalakov, who had won his bouts in Punjab Panthers’ victories over Odisha Warriors and Bombay Bullets. Chirag, a World Military Games bronze medallist, pushed the Uzbekistan boxer to the ropes and gave him little room to line up punches.

The experienced Ashish Kumar rallied from some early, energetic pounding by young Mohit in the 75kg battle to place Gujarat Giants in a commanding position even before their captain Amit Pangal stepped into the ring against PL Prasad. Ashish Kumar exerted control over the bout in the second round and did enough to gain the nod of all the judges.

Asian Games gold medallist and 2019 World Championship finalist Amit Panghal was at his best as he outclassed Prasad in the 52kg bout.

His win gave the team a 3-0 lead and brought the Punjab Panthers under pressure. Mary Kom and Manoj Kumar absorbed that to bring the Panthers back in the frame.

Having toyed with Rajesh Narwal, including a couple of powerful jabs on her face, Mary Kom gave her opponent a big hug and a peck on her cheek after she ran out winner. Manoj Kumar found his rhythm in the second and third rounds after being at the receiving end of Duryodhan Singh Negi’s speed and power in the first. It was a fine effort but not enough to spur the team to victory.

The Punjab outfit knew they would pay a heavy price for Khalakov’s loss since they had to pass the Sarita Devi challenge in the sixth bout. The experienced boxer waited for Manisha to spend her energy and moved in to score. With her team on a roll and unde not much pressure, Poonam Poonia added a valuable point with a win against Sapna Sharma in the youth women’s 57kg bout.

After eight of the 15 league matches, Gujarat Giants (14 points from three) leapfrogged to the top of the table. Punjab Panthers slid to the second spot with 12 points from three matches. Odisha Warriors (10 from three), Bombay Bullets (7 from two), NE Rhinos (7 from two) and Bengaluru Brawlers (6 from three) follow the leaders.