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Sri Lanka pugilists win two bronze medals at World Military Boxing Championships

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Two-time national champion Sajeewa Nuwan lived up to his billing as Sri Lanka’s best prospect for a medal to battle his way to glory in two contrasting bouts. The 29-year-old Lance Corporal from Kekirawa, Anuradhapura who has carried away the Best Boxer awards in all three major local meets – Layton Cup, Clifford Cup and the Nationals – in the recent past, displayed great panache, tactical nous and superb ring craft against rugged fighters from Mozambique and Brazil.

He fought the fight of his life to beat a tough southpaw from Mozambique Yassine Nordine Issufo in the quarter-finals before losing narrowly to Brazil’s Leanderso Conceicao Siqueira in the semi-finals.

Sajeewa Nuwan (left) and Gayani Nisansala with their bronze medals

Sajeewa Nuwan dominated the opening round against Issufo, outboxing and outscoring the southpaw and displaying quicksilver footwork to slip away when his opponent attacked. However, he changed tactics in the next two rounds fighting toe-to-toe aggressively and tenacity landing enough scoring blows to earn a split decision.

In the semi final, Sajeewa Nuwan met a Brazilian who had an almost identical fighting style as the Sri Lankan soldier attached to the Armoured Corps. Siqueira maintained his distance circling around Sajeewa who had to take the fight to his crafty opponent. Sajeewa unleashed combinations and landed body blows but Siqueira got the nod in a contest which could have gone either way as he appeared to score with counter punches.

Sri Lanka were also assured of another bronze medal when LAC Gayani Nisansala Kaluarachchilage went down fighting in the semi finals of the Middle weight (75kg) category to Viktoriya Kebikava of Belarus. 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Army’s Ishan Bandara advanced to the quarter-finals in the fly weight (52kg) category defeating Pakistan’s Muhammad Dawood with the bout being stopped in the third round because of an injury. Bandara gave a good account of himself against a southpaw Damir Abdikadir from Kazakhstan who had stopped Aliaksandr Butrym of Belarus earlier. The Kazak fighter craftily outboxed Bandara who attempted to stun his opponent with solid rights. Bandara did finish strongly scoring heavily in the final round but it was a little too late.

The rest of the 15-member strong Sri Lanka team comprising Army, Navy and Air Force pugilists, were eliminated in the preliminaries with leading woman pugilist Sajeewani Cooray failing to go the distance against France’s Lorye Ruyer in the light weight (57kg) contest. Fly weight boxer Sanduni Priyadarshani Hanwellage was outpointed by world champion Ekateria Paltseva of Russia while Barbara dos Santos from Brazil had a quick victory over Weerakoon Kashmi Thiwanka in the first round of the 69kg contest. The other Sri Lankan boxers lost unanimous decisions to fighters from Jordan, Kazakshtan and Iran.

Dian Gomes

Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) president Dian Gomes was buoyed by the medal winning effort of Sajeewa Nuwan who will be the country’s lone representative at the World Boxing Championship to be held in Belgrade, Serbia next month.

“We have two bronze medals in the recent past. Nadeeka Ranasinghe at the Asian Championship in Dubai and Sajeewa at the World Military Championship, proving yet again that boxing has the potential to win medals in the international arena,” said Gomes who aims to give Sri Lanka boxers more exposure before next year’s Commonwealth Games.

“I am trying to get a 10-day training camp in Serbia for Sajeewa. I have asked the government whether they could support it so Sajeewa gets some kind of training. I’m also looking at the current situation,” said Gomes, whose main focus is the Birmingham Games.

“At the Commonwealth discussion we had asked for eight boys and four girls. Boxing is taken as a sport with prospective medal winners. Last time (2018 Gold Coast), they gave me six and we won three medals. We have shown results. I feel looking at everything and the discussion, we will get six boys and most probably two or three girls,” he said confidently.

The BASL is also planning to send an eight-member team, including two women, for an international tournament in Belarus next month. Former national coach Capt. R.K. Indrasena (rtd) is expected to return as head coach with Amila Aravinda to assist him.

“We want to get back Indrasena because he has got the coaching experience,” he said. Plans to get down a Cuban coach have been stalled because of the covid pandemic.

The BASL will also be conducting two trial meets to select youth boxers for two upcoming international meets. One is the Youth and Junior Men and Women Boxam International Costa Blanca, Spain tournament to be held in November and the other is the first ever ASBC Asian Under 22 Championship to be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan in December.

“We hope to send four-member teams for these tournaments. They will have to sponsor themselves. I have been given funds only for the high-performance team for the Commonwealth Games,” said Gomes.

“Next year we will have two or three international tournaments lined up once the national trials have been done. The six men and two girls going to Belarus will definitely be in that (Commonwealth) team. They are the best prospects. The chances of any upset looks remote other than in the critical 48kg or 52kg weights. We have got more guys. I will play it by ear,” he said.

In fact, a member of boxing’s six-member high-performance squad Lasindu Eranda lost to Army’s Piyal Dharmasena in the Selection meet held for the World Championship. A bronze medallist in the Indonesian President’s Cup meet in 2019, 29-year-old Dharmasena was overlooked by the selectors.

“I wanted to send Dharmasena which was vehemently refused by the selection committee. My personal opinion is Dharmasena can fight all three rounds in a World Championship but they feel he is not up to the mark to fight in a world tournament. Actually we don’t have a chance in the world championship but I want some representation,” he said.

“However, I am sending Dharmasena to the Belarus event. It will be a tough tournament with boxers from , Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. We have no chance of winning medals but it will be a good experience. My whole focus is for Commonwealth Games and sending them for meet after meet. Somehow kind of at least giving them some kind of international exposure,” said Gomes.

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