Bengaluru Brawlers, trailing at the bottom of the table, sprang the biggest of surprises in the Big Bout League with a 4-3 victory over the fancied Punjab Panthers in the 11th match at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in Noida.
They made the most of the opening that Punjab Panthers offered while fielding a weakened line-up. With Anamika (51kg) and skipper Simranjit Kaur (60kg) giving the Bengaluru Brawlers a great start by winning the women’s bouts, Dinesh Dagar and Pawan Kumar Narwal (75kg) continued to build on the momentum.
Having logged 12 points in their earlier matches, Punjab Panthers opted to field four debutants in their penultimate league match. They rested the likes of skipper MC Mary Kom, Uzbek star Abdulmalik Khalakov and Manoj Kumar against Bengaluru Brawlers, who had won only six points from three earlier matches.
Anamika, the World Youth Championships silver medallist, made capital of the opportunity to secure a win as she did not have to face the legendary Mary Kom in the women’s 51kg bout. Against southpaw Darshana Doot, who appeared rusty, she showcased her superior technical skills to overcome the height and reach advantage that her rival started with.
She used her speed and aggression to force Darshana Doot to backpedal a lot in the opening round. Though the Punjab Panthers made a comeback of sorts in the second round, finding the gap in Anamika’s defence, the Bengaluru Brawler pugilist ran out a comfortable winner.
Punjab Panthers’ PL Prasad was confidence personified in posting a unanimous points verdict over Ashish Insah to help his team draw level 1-1. It was in soaking in the pressure of having to earn a crucial point for his team that Prasad, the Armyman from Visakhapatnam, stood out. He moved deftly to be one step ahead of his opponent all the time.
Dinesh Dagar got familiar with the taste of victory by scoring a split-decision verdict over debutant Yashpal, who replaced the experienced Manoj Kumar in the Panthers’ line-up. Skipper Simranjit Kaur extended her run of wins to four in as many starts by defeating an enthusiastic Manisha, preferred by the Panthers ahead of South Asian Games champion Sonia Lather. On her part, Manisha did well to harry Simranjit Kaur consistently with a left hook that fetched her points.
With a lot depending on him, Pawan Kumar Narwal earned his first Big Bout win with a split 4-1 verdict over Rakesh Kumar in the penultimate bout. The manner in which he balanced attack with defence was impressive and he imposed a standing count in the second round with a combination of punches to swing the balance decisively in his favour.
However, despite the defeat in the match, Punjab Panthers returned to the second place on the charts through victories for Ankit, who beat Suraj Singh in the 57kg battle. Panthers have 15 points from four matches behind Gujarat Giants (17 points from four).