CWG boxing: Thapa outpunches Pakistan’s Baloch, sails into Round of 16

Ten years after first emerging onto the Indian boxing scene as an 18-year-old at the 2012 London Olympics, Shiva Thapa returned to the United Kingdom and in his first bout, he easily dispatched Pakistan’s Suleman Baloch in a unanimous 5-0 decision to walk into the Commonwealth Games Round-of-32 on Friday.

Believed to be one of the favourites for a medal at the Birmingham Games, Thapa, a five-time Asian Championship medallist, came out looking composed at the National Exhibition Hall ready to box. Having missed out on a spot at the Tokyo Olympics, this was his first bout in a major competition since having to deal with that disappointment.

The bout started off on a fast-paced note, with Thapa’s constant lateral movement offsetting any punches thrown by Baloch. His first offensive move of the bout was a straight one-two combination. One landed on Baloch’s glove but two found its mark. And so it began.

It took a mere 30 seconds into the fight to know the gulf in difference between both fighters. Baloch, a seven-time Pakistani national champion, tried to take the fight to his 28-year-old rival and would keep moving forward. But Thapa shares the same affinity for fighting off the counter that most Indian boxers enjoy and picked off his Pakistani counterpart with ease.

There was a moment in the first round where Thapa landed four unanswered punches to the body and then swiftly went for Baloch’s face. The only time the Pakistani boxer looked like he was landing was when both would be locked in a clinch. A superior reach advantage was negated by Thapa’s constant head movement. At the end of the first, one judge scored the bout 10-8 and the other four settled for 10-9 scores.

The second round saw Baloch trying his best to be as aggressive as possible from the get-go. But his strategy of walking Thapa down was limited at best and the former World Championship bronze medallist started to flex on Baloch.

Opportunities were being presented on a platter to Thapa as Baloch’s plan seemed to either tie his opponent up or charge him. His best moment was a body shot to the Assamese but even that small victory was short-lived as Thapa returned with a stinging hook that rattled Baloch’s nose. At close quarters, Thapa’s left hook always seemed to land flush on Baloch, and further away, there was always the stinging jab to employ.

At the end of round 2, Thapa was leading 20-18, 20-17, 20-18, 20-18, and 20-17 on all five score cards. Baloch also had a point deducted from him in the second round. Despite trying to use his larger size and fight rough against the technically superior Indian, Baloch was two rounds down and almost certainly out of the fight.

If anything, the third round was Thapa’s easiest. Landing a few jabs at the start, Thapa eased the pace and started to coast. Moving out the way of a couple of wild swings, he finished the round easily and collected the victory. On the final judge’s scorecard, Thapa had won 30-26, 30-25, 30-26, 30-26, 30-24.

The prize for winning with ease, though, is that the Indian boxer is set to face Reese Lynch of Scotland in the Round-of-16. Lynch won the light-welterweight bronze at the 2021 World Championship – an event where Thapa had exited at the quarter-finals to eventual champion Kerem Ozmen.

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