Qatari boxer Thulasi Tharumalingam (right) is declared the winner of his 64kg preliminary round bout against Kagiso Bagwasi of Botswana at the World Championships yesterday.
By Satya Rath/Doha
It was smooth sailing for the better-known names against their lesser-known opponents, barring a few twists here and there, on the opening day’s preliminary rounds in the 18th edition of the AIBA World Boxing Championships, being staged at the state-of-the-art Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiyah Arena in Al Sadd, here yesterday.
The entertainment came fast and furious, as several of the world’s finest boxers went head to head in 40 bouts across the first day with each experiencing contrasting emotions that boxing offers. With the bouts lasting only three rounds for three minutes each, the intensity and pace in the ring was gripping for all.
To add to the euphoria, it was a good start in the ring for Qatar with Thulasi Tharumalingam defeating Kagiso Bagwasi of Botswana by a unanimous point’s decision in the preliminary round of light welter weight category (64k).
However, the second Qatari boxer, Alhadi Abdulrahman, who featured in the opening day’s action also in the middle weight category, went down to Venezuelan Endry Saavedra Pintom to bow out of the championships.
Tharumalingam, naturally, was elated. “I feel overjoyed about this situation and feel proud to represent Qatar. It was a great feeling to compete in this incredible stadium and I will now take every fight step by step. Walking out tonight to enter the ring was just as inspiring as witnessing the opening ceremony. I want to qualify for the Olympics in Rio and I know to do this I need to win. That’s my goal,” he said after his win.
Despite the defeat, Abdulrahman said he would cherish the moment: “Even though I didn’t win this isn’t the end of the story for me. This has been the biggest moment of my life and I hope it can open new doors for me in my career.
“I will certainly be back tomorrow to support my teammates as a fan. It’s incredible to have the World Championships in Doha, and I hope everyone will join in the celebration of this wonderful sport.”
Earlier, in the day’s opening bout, between light flyweight favourite Rogen Landon of Philippines and Argentina’s Leandro Blanc, it was a 3-0 cakewalk for the latter. In another key bout of the afternoon session, USA’s industrious pugilist Anthony Campbell was taken the distance before beating the challenge of Italy’s Salvatore Cavallero in a hard-fought 2-1 verdict.
“I started out great, but for some reason I slowed down in the second round. I had to go and pick it up in the third. My coaches told me to keep my foot on the gas and go all-in. Now I feel I can go all the way and win it, and people better watch out because I’m coming for the title!” a confident Campbell said right after his victory.
The afternoon also saw one of the key contenders for the 64kg title, Canada’s Arthur Biyarslanov, take on Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo from Azerbaijan. That did not end well for Biyarslanov who sensationally crashed out of the Worlds in a comprehensive 3-0 unanimous decision.
In another intense heavyweight bout, Australian Jason Whateley went down 2-1 to Roman Fress of Germany. “I can’t even explain how amazing it is to win after putting in so much effort. This was such a tough bout, but to come through with a win, here in this very, very good stadium is just unbelievable. I’ve never seen a better boxing venue in my life! Doha is great!” a relieved Fress said.
The sole upset, if one could call it that, came in the third bout of the day, in the 56kg bantam weight, when Ukrainian boxer Mykola Butsenko, a 2013 bronze medalist competing in his third World Championships, went down to veteran Thai Chatchai Butdee, a 52kg boxer but punching above his weight in Doha in what is his fifth Worlds.
Few expected the 24-year-old Butsenko, whose results haven’t been very encouraging since his bronze medal feat at the Almaty World Championships two years back, to go the distance. But once he drew the 30-year-old Thai as his opening round opponent, the expectations dimmed even further.
Butdee, also a bronze medalist at Almaty but in the 52kg division, was too fast and wily, and had too much power for his younger opponent. The 3-0 verdict, in the end, was hardly surprising.
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