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Much-hyped Mega Boxing struggles to set ring alight

Ajeyo Basu

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Sagar Narwat (right) scores a jab against Gulab Lahot during their Mega Boxing bout at DLF CyberHub late on Friday.

Gurugram: If Mega Boxing wanted to put on a spectacle for the growing trend of professional boxing in India, the organisers perhaps could not have chosen a better place for their April 12 event. Held in an open ring in CyberHub here, bang in the middle of IT and Corporate offices and the prime boxing state in India, the platform held much promise.

But  if the large crowd of curious onlookers expected to witness a power-packed advertisement for Indian boxing, the actual action in the ring was disappointing, to say the least.

Mega Boxing as a professional tournament seemed nothing short of a Tamasha (created drama) with the quality of boxing, fitness levels and skill sets of boxers and even refereeing of pedestrian standards. Boxers competing in the event looked like readymade punching bags with no footwork and disappointing hitting skills.

Adding to the frustration was the staging of a fashion show and a hip-hop musical battle that took away all the attention from the boxing. Having scantily clad ring girls was enough to keep audiences hooked to the event, however, the organisers had plans of creating a typical Indian potboiler.

Of the boxers involved, only Sagar Narwat and Luka were of decent standards. But they too were not fully tested due to the absence of strong competition.

Kirti (right) powers her jab through Urvashi Singh’s defence during their bout.

Apart from the poor boxing standards, the quality of refereeing also left much to be desired. Several of the boxers had a tendency to hit on the back of their opponents’ head during their ties, but the referees chose not to issue any warning, let alone penalising the player.

According to the rules, it’s an offence and the referee needs to give a warning. In case of repeated violations, the officials can dock points or can even disqualify the player in extreme cases. But strangely, the referees at Mega Boxing repeatedly ignored such a serious offence throughout the evening.

If a true boxing fan was present among the crowd, the incessant assault on his senses must have started from the first bout itself.

When Munish Sharma and Gaurav Singh Hooda strode into the ring to kick-off the evening’s proceedings, there was palpable excitement and anticipation among the crowd. But when the super lightweight fight started it became gradually evident that the duo will find it difficult to bag a medal even at the national amateur tournaments, let alone at the world professional level.

Gaurav had the better of the exchanges in the first two rounds. While both boxers were struggling with their footwork and technique, Munish seemed to be the worse of the two with a seemingly unfit body.

But he managed to knock down Gaurav in the third round by exploiting a gap in his opponent’s defence. It was a powerful blow which threw Gaurav half outside the ring. Gaurav was unable to totally recover from the blow which allowed Munish to dominate the rest of the round, and eventually clinch the bout.

Asha Roka (left) tries to evade a punch during her bout against Anita Maurya.

The next bout was a ladies fight between Asha Roka and Anita Maurya. Technically, it was a better affair than the first bout with Anita emerging as the winner.

The fight between Sagar Narwat and Gulab Lahot was the best of the night. The first two rounds were dominated by Sagar, the fittest among the lot. Gulab came out all guns blazing in the third round and managed to put Sagar under pressure.

The fourth round was evenly balanced with both boxers going toe to toe. Gulab landed a few hooks to the face, while Sagar managed a couple of jabs. Despite the close finish, Sagar clinched the tie by unanimous decision.

Next up was a heavyweight fight between Arjun Singh and Vikas Singh. But both were visibly unfit with Vikas flaunting a healthy paunch. It seemed the organisers settled for Pehelwans (wrestlers) instead of quality boxers.

The more heavily built Arjun had the better of the exchanges in the opening two rounds landing punches packed with explosive power at regular intervals. Vikas initially struggled to match his opponent, but gradually found his rhythm as the fight progressed.  He continuously kept hitting at the back of his rival’s head without getting penalised or even warned by the referee.

Action during the Mega Boxing bout between Arjun Singh (left) and Vikas Singh.

He dominated the round and landed several blows to the face and body of Arjun. The next two rounds saw Vikas continuing with precision play, landing upper cuts through the poor defence of Arjun, who looked visibly tired. As a counter, Arjun kept taking wild swings with some of them landing on his rival’s face.

Although both boxers visibly struggled with their fitness in the closing stages, Vikas clinched victory with his superior presence of mind.

The last bout between Rajesh Singh and Adam Hatibu was a decent one. Boasting good fitness and technique, Rajesh has the potential to make a mark if he can improve on his defence. The 10-round bout against Adam Hatibu was watchable although the contest was not of an exceptionally high quality.

As the evening came to an end and the crowd started to disperse, the best part of the event unfolded back stage. As the boxers made their way out of the venue, they were surrounded by scores of people asking for selfies. Sagar and Rajesh were the most popular among the crowd.

Despite the pedestrian standards, the boxers had certainly gained considerable popularity. It was heartening to see the love for the growing sport of boxing in a cricket-mad country. That was perhaps the only takeaway from the evening. If the organisers want real boxing fans to follow Mega Boxing, they not only need to overturn the organisational structure and focus on the quality of athletes and refereeing.