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Asian Championships: First for India as Shiva Thapa seals fourth medal

The 25-year-old from Assam defeated Thailand’s Rujakran Juntrong in a one-sided lightweight (60kg) contest here. He prevailed 5-0.

other sports Updated: Apr 24, 2019 00:52 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Shiva Thapa,Rujakran Juntrong,Asian Championships
File image of Shiva Thapa(Pitamber Newar)

2013, 2015, 2017, 2019. Four championships, four medals. For Shiva Thapa, the Asian Boxing Championships (ABC) continues to be an affair to remember.

In Bangkok on Tuesday, Thapa, 25, outclassed local boxer Rujakran Juntrong 5-0 in a lightweight (60kg) quarter-final. In the process, the boxer from Assam became the first from India to win four medals. Thapa won gold in 2013, bronze in 2015, silver in 2017 and is now assured of at least a bronze. He will meet Kazakhstan’s Zakir Safiullin, a silver-medallist from 2015, in the semi-final.

Thapa’s run continued the medal harvest for India with four men and four women making the medal rounds.

“As I was playing a local boxer, we decided to try and score with as many punches as we could from the start and make it a one-sided affair, so that no judgment could affect the final outcome,” says Shiva, speaking to this newspaper from Bangkok.

Juntrong is left-handed and had greater reach but found no answer to Thapa’s aggression from the get-go.

From when he became the youngest Indian boxer to compete in the 2012 London Olympics, Thapa was seen as the next big thing in India. Winning bronze in the 2015 World Championship didn’t harm his reputation and Thapa qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

Things went south last year as Thapa missed qualifying for the Commonwealth Games and lost in the opening round at the Jakarta Asian Games.

“I am glad that 2018 came in my life. That setback is helping me to prove my worth again. After a disappointing year, the coaches, especially (CA) Kuttappa Sir helped me a lot. I changed my style. Earlier, I was more defensive. Now I focus more on attack,” says Shiva, for whom this is the last tournament in the 60kg.

After ABC, he will be shifting to 63kg, as AIBA (the boxing world body) has re-jigged weight categories and axed 60kg from the Olympics programme. “Now I am only thinking about the Asian championship and once it is over, I will work on the World Championship as podium finish in 2020 Tokyo is my ultimate goal,” says Shiva.

For someone who says he weighs around 62-63kg at competitions, moving up a category can be a double-edged sword. While Thapa will not need to cut down now, he will also be up against boxers who are stronger and hence need to work on his strength. But that is for later.

Chief national coach CA Kuttappa, who has seen Thapa from when he made it to the senior national camp in 2011, says he is confident of a final berth and more in Bangkok.

“He can easily win gold. Earlier, Shiva would start defensively and become more aggressive in the second and third rounds. Now we have worked on him to become aggressive from the beginning and it is fetching rewards.”

First Published: Apr 23, 2019 13:30 IST