Aizawl (Mizoram) , June 10 : A 22-year-old boxer, hailing from Mizoram, was ignored during the selection for the national boxing team earlier this year. A few months later, when he finally got a chance to play under the Indian colours, he did all the right things. The youngster created history on Saturday when he defeated the World No. 1 and Olympic Gold Medalist Hassanboy Dusmatov at the Kazakhstan President's Cup.
Mizo pugilist NT Lalbiakkima is on a dream run in Kazakhstan. He defeated World number 1, 2016 Olympic gold medalist and Asia No 1, Hasanboy Dusmatov to storm into the semi final of the ongoing President Cup.
During the tough phase, when he was overlooked for the national selection, Lalbiakkima had called up his mentor, Commonwealth Gold medalist Suranjoy Singh.
“I told him not to be worried. He was still very young and that he would get his chance soon enough. And when he did, he had to make the chance count," recalls Suranjoy, who won Gold in the 2010 CWG and is one of the finest Indian boxers of the past decade.
And, Lalbiakkima exactly did that in Astana, Kazakhstan on Saturday.
While Dusmatov was the reigning light flyweight (49kg) Olympic champion and a silver medalist at the 2017 World Championships, Lalbiakkima’s best performance prior to that contest had been a silver medal at the 2017 Senior Nationals in Vishakapatnam. At the end of the quarter-final ended between Lalbiakkima and Dusmatov, the result 4-1 was in the favour of the Indian and was certainly a huge and unexpected upset at that stage of the tournament.
“It's incredible what Kima has done. It's the biggest name beaten by an Indian boxer. I'm honoured that I could watch his bout. It's the first time that an Indian has beaten the current Olympic champion,” says Coach Jaisingh Patil, who hoisted Lalbiakkima onto his shoulders after the referee announced the victor.
According to a report, when Patil saw Lalbiakkima three years back as a junior boxer, Patil did not think the later was a skillful boxer. “He wasn't the most skillful boxer but he was the most hardworking boxer I saw. That is the most important thing for me. You can teach skills but the willingness to work hard needs to be inside a boxer,” Patil said.
The 22-year-old from Saiha in southern Mizoram is the first Indian to have beaten a reigning Olympic gold medallist, that too on his maiden tournament for India. He beat Dusmatov 4-1 in the quarter-final in light flyweight (49kg) to storm into the semi-final to assure himself of a medal. He will meet Kazakhstan's Ezahn in the semi-final on Saturday.
"I was nervous before the bout as Dusmatov is the world number one. I knew he is the best boxer in the world. But I want to be the best too," he told reporters.
Boxing Federation of India (BFI) treasurer Hemanta Kalita said: "Lalbiakkima has brought yet another laurel to the nation and made all of us very proud. This will enhance his confidence. We will take all steps, including overseas training, to prepare Lalbiakkima for the 2020 Olympics."
India and Uzbekistan have recently entered a pact for an exchange programme in boxing which will start next month.
Lalbiakkima was first exposed to boxing in 2009 when local cable network LPS vision and Mizoram Boxing Association organised Pro Fight. He won the tournament four consecutive times since 2014.