World Championships silver-medallist Amit Panghal helped Gujarat Giants book a berth in the final of the Indian Boxing League with a facile 4-1 win over Bombay Bullets in the first semi-final on Thursday.
Two wins played played a crucial role in Giants’ journey to the final. 57 kg boxer Chirag was under pressure against Kavinder Singh Bisht while British champion Forrest had to overcome memories of a loss to Emmanuel Reyas in the 91 kg bout in the league. Both delivered with their ringcraft and never-say-die attitude.
Bisht, whose only loss in the league stage came at the hands of Punjab Panthers’ young Uzbek star Abdulmalik Khalakov, seemed eager to end Chirag’s unbeaten run.
He backed that determination with a solid showing in the opening round, but Chirag showed terrific mental strength in bouncing back to make a fine impression on the judges to earn a 4-1 verdict.
Similarly, having conceded some ground in the first two rounds, Forrest picked up extra points with his relentless attack on the tiring Cuban-born Spaniard in the final round to eke out a narrow win.
Skipper Panghal, returning to the Giants line-up after two matches, delivered an expected victory over Ananta Chopade. But the 21-year-old Chopade could leave the ring with his head held high after putting up a gallant fight through the three rounds against a boxer who has an Asian Games gold medal and a World Championships silver.
Earlier, Gujarat Giants’ 21-year-old Ashish Kulheria was confidence personified as he cancelled the one-point lead that Bombay Bullets had opened up through Ingrit Lorena Valencia.
The Bullets had to rope in the services of Pune professional Siddharth Ravindra Verma, 35, to stand in for their best performer, 20-year-old Naveen Boora who was ruled out of the semi-finals by the doctor.
Verma did well to mount a challenge to Ashish Kulheria in the 69 kg fight but it was not enough. The confidence and composure with which the younger boxer, an Asian Championships bronze medallist earlier this year, stood out glowingly. Kulheria was in complete command and extended his Big Bout run to five wins.
Bombay Bullets claimed their first point when their skipper Ingrit Lorena Valencia secured a unanimous points verdict against Rajesh Narwal. The result was on expected lines and the Colombian Olympic Games bronze medallist and Pan-American Games champion scored in each of the three rounds, showcasing her superior ringcraft.
The 4-1 win meant that Gujarat Giants former world champion Sarita Devi (women’s 60 kg) did not have to enter the ring and Asian Championship bronze medallist Ashish Kumar would have to wait for another day to settle scores with Rohit Kumar.
In the other semifinal on Friday, NE Rhinos will take on Punjab Panthers. The Rhinos had won 4-3 in the last league match on Tuesday.