by Priya Jadhav
New Delhi, December : The Amit Pangal-led Gujarat Giants will start as favourites against Bombay Bullets in the semifinals of the Big Bout India Boxing League at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium Complex on Thursday while Friday’s clash between NE Rhinos and Punjab Panthers promises to be another thriller.
To be sure, the Bullets beat Gujarat Giants 4-3 when the teams squared up in the league stage but it must be remembered that the latter squad was without the likes of Amit Pangal and former women’s world champion Sarita Devi while they blocked the 57kg bout featuring Chirag, another of their heroes in the campaign so far.
With the return of each of their unbeaten stars to add to the youth women’s 57kg ace Poonam Punia who has won all her four bouts, Gujarat Giants will expect to reverse the scoreline, if not win the semifinal contest by a larger margin against a team for whom only Naveen Boora caught the eye with consistent performances that helped him win four of his five bouts in the league.
Bombay Bullets will be hoping that their skipper Ingrit Lorena Valencia (women’s 51kg), Kavinder Singh Bisht (57kg) and Emmanuel Reyas (91kg), each of who has won three bouts in the league stage, will find their A game on Thursday. Anand Chopade has a 2-2 win-loss record but he will have to face the redoubtable Amit Pangal.
The Bullets will be worried that they have not secured a point from their women’s 60kg boxers, Melisa Neomi Gonzalez and Monika, or from the Youth Women’s 57kg puglist Priya Kushwaha. On the contrary, the Gujarat Giants’ weakest link appears to be the women’s 51kg boxer, Rajesh Narwal who beat Savita (Odisha Warriors) in her first bout but has faced defeat subsequently.
The other semifinal could well be termed a grudge match for Punjab Panthers who lost 3-4 to NE Rhinos. The Panthers will hope that their legendary skipper MC Mary Kom, who missed the last league match owing to a bad back, will be able to take the ring against Nikhat Zareen and quell her challenge.
On the basis of the evidence in the league stage, there is very little to choose between the two teams. NE Rhinos will draw encouragement from the fact that Nikhat Zareen (women’s 51kg), Mandeep Jangra (69kg) and Francisco Veron (75kg) have not lost a bout and accounted for more than half of their 19 points earned in the league.
For the Panthers, Mary Kom, Sonia Lather (women’s 60kg) and Naveen Kumar (91kg), who was rested during Tuesday’s loss to the Rhinos, are the unbeaten boxers, with the likes of PL Prasad (52kg) and Abdulmalik Khalakov (57kg) also raising visions of sustaining their good form in the semifinals as well.