North East Rhinos ran out a 4-3 winners over Odisha Warriors in the ninth match of the Big Bout Indian Boxing League at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium Complex in Noida.
Playing without Nikhat Zareen, the Rhinos dropped the women’s 51kg point but were presented a bonus by Jasurbek Latipov’s disqualification.
The Rhinos were keen to move to third spot behind Gujarat Giants (14 points from three matches) and Punjab Panthers (12 points from three) but their inability to win the final two bouts of the evening saw them in the fourth place (11 points from three matches) behind Odisha Warriors (13 points from four matches).
The Rhinos received an unexpected thrust when Latipov was disqualified for a low blow that felled a fading Laldin Mawia in the second bout of the evening.
The Uzbek southpaw did well for the better part of two rounds but, eager to secure a knockout, he hit the young Indian below the belt and floored him.
It did not take much for the judges to agree with the referee in disqualifying the 28-year-old Olympian for the error in judgement caused by a rush of blood.
It doubled the lead that the Rhinos had opened up through a Pwilao Basmuatary victory over Sandhya Rani. She secured a 4-1 verdict in the women’s 60kg bout and set the Rhinos on the way to securing the crucial victory.
Odisha Warriors’ ploy of fielding World Police Games gold medallist Sandhya Rani in place of Priyanka Chaudhary did not have the desired impact as the Rhinos were reinforced by the presence of Pwilao Basumatary, fresh from her conquest of the 64kg crown in the National Championship in Kannur.
A classic contest between Mandeep Jangra and Jakhangir Rakhmonov in the 69kg bout erased memories of Lapitov’s horrendous decision. After a tense wait for the judges to compile their verdict and declare him the winner, Mandeep Jangra whooped in delight as he joined Amit Panghal (Gujarat Giants), MC Mary Kom (Punjab Panthers) and Simranjit Kaur (Benglauru Brawlers) as the only boxers with three wins in as many starts.
Another close contest followed, with Shiksha securing a narrow win against Meenakshi to delay Rhinos victory in the match. The women’s 51kg bout, featuring pugilists making their respective Big Bout debuts, saw neither boxer conceding ground and trading punches tirelessly. It was a veritable feast for boxing fans before Shiksha was declared winner in a split verdict.
Yet, with the strapping Argentine Francisco Veron, using his longer reach and superior skills against Pramod Kumar to good effect in the 75kg bout, it was a matter of time before the Rhinos assured sealed a win. Yet, they needed to add the remaining two points to be able to take the third place on the table on their own.
The teams made four changes each in their line-up before the match, the most important being NE Rhinos decision to rest skipper Nikhat Zareen ahead of her big bouts against Ingrit Lorena Valencia of Bombay Bullets and Mary Kom of Punjab Panthers. NE Rhinos also blocked the Youth Women 57kg bout from the draw, having perceived Sunita as their weakest suit today.
The other bout of the night pit the table toppers Gujarat Giants against Bombay Bullets (7 points from two matches), who were ahead of the Bengaluru Brawlers (6 from three).