It was like being at the Indian Premier League. A large crowd was hooting and chanting for the home team, cheerleaders were dancing on the sidelines and loud music was blaring in between bouts.
Welcome to the opening day of the World Series of Boxing in India. The atmosphere was electric as big-time boxing made a grand entry in the country with the lone Indian team in the WSB, Mumbai Fighters, taking on a superior Milano Thunder of Italy at the boxing arena of the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex on Friday.
The crowd had never seen top-level boxers and teams in action and it was obviously excited. Much before the jabs, hooks and punches had begun to fly around, the 1000-plus crowd had started chanting for the home team, with the regular support lines being 'Bharat Mata ki jai', 'Go India Go' and 'Ganpati Bappa Moria'.
It’s not just the locals who were overawed, even India hockey star Sandeep Singh was all praise for the concept. “I think this is excellent for the pugilists. This will help boxing grow and public will start following other sports as well, which really need crowd support. It’s a good sign for other sports,” said Sandeep.
Mumbai Fighters put up a courageous display to come back but lost their debut bout against the Milano Thunder 3-2 in the best-of-five bouts match. Olympian Diwakar Prasad opened the account for the Indian outfit after Milano Thunder's Vitaliy Volkov had registered the first win. Diwakar started aggressively and took the match with a split decision, knocking out his opponent Juan Herrera.
“In this format, you have to take risks, otherwise there is no chance of winning. You have to make the most of your chances,” said Diwakar.
Results: Milano Thunder bt Mumbai Fighters 3-2, Vitaliy Volkov bt Balbir Singh 3-0; Diwakar Prasad bt Juan Javier Herrera 2-1; Sergiy Derevyan-henko bt Patrick Gallagher (Tech Knock Out); Jasveer Singh bt Nikolajs Grisunins 3-0; Clemente Russo bt Krishan Kumar 3-0.