It’s always great to play international matches in front of home crowd, says boxer Shiva Thapa Credit: File image

Guwahati: Following his bronze medal-winning performance in the recently concluded Asian Boxing Championship in Bangkok, Assam boy and country’s youngest boxer ever to qualify for Olympics, Shiva Thapa, expressed his excitement to play in front of his home crowd during the Indian Open International Boxing Tournament to be held in Guwahati from May 20 to May 24.

“It’s always great to play international matches in front of your home crowd. I hope our supporters in large numbers will throng the championship venue to support us. This championship will definitely attract more youngsters towards boxing,” said the boxer from Guwahati who is currently employed with the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC).

The boxing heartthrob of the Northeast also expressed his desire to win a gold at the forthcoming tournament in Guwahati.

“I will play in the Indian Open International Boxing Tournament to clinch a gold medal. Whenever I fail to perform as per my expectation in one tournament, I immediately shift my attention to the next tournament,” he said.

Even though Thapa wanted to win a gold medal at the Asian meet, the 25-year-old could not bring down Kazakhstan’s Zakir Safiullin in the semi-finals held in April.

But he set a record anyway — his bronze made him the only Indian boxer to have won four medals at the continent’s biggest boxing event. He won his first Asian medal, a gold, back in 2013, when he was just 19.

“Soon after our return from Bangkok, we are doing extensive hard work for the tournament to be played in Guwahati. Each and every member of the Indian team is working tirelessly for the upcoming tournament. As a team, our main aim is to win more medals in the forthcoming event,” he said, adding: “It’s always great to play international matches in front of the home crowd.”

Altogether six boxers from Assam will participate in the event starting from May 20-24.

Shiva Thapa’s bronze made him the only Indian boxer to have won four medals at the Asian Championships held in April

World champion Mary Kom, Asian Games champion Amit Panghal (52kg) and Olympian Shiva Thapa (60 kg) will spearhead the home challenge as pugilists from 16 countries will be seen in action in the $70,000 tournament.

Keeping in mind the approved weight categories for Tokyo 2020 qualification, some of the Indian pugilists have changed their weight categories. After her stunning performance at the Asian Championships, where she became the first Indian to win a gold in 81kg, Pooja Rani has gone back to her original weight category of 75kg.

Assam’s Bhagyabati Kachari too has made a similar change while Asian Championships bronze medalist Manisha Moun will be fighting it out in 57kg for the very first time. Simranjit Kaur, a silver medalist at the continental tournament in 64kg, has switched to 60kg as well and will be competing with former world champion Sarita Devi, who added her eighth Asian medal this year.

While the six-time world champion will be India’s biggest medal hope yet again, Amit Panghal (52kg) will be looking to continue his dominance after conquering the Asian Championships gold.

Apart from Shiva Thapa (60kg), who created a record by winning medals in four consecutive Asian championships, will be aiming to impress the home crowd and so will Ankushita Boro (64kg), a gold medalist at the 2017 World Youth Championship.

World Boxing Championships 2017 bronze medalist Gaurav Bidhuri (56kg) will be another of the big medal bets from India.

In the upcoming edition, while the gold medalists will get richer by $2,500, the silver medalists will receive $1,000 for their exploits as the countdown for the tournament begins.

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