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Deepak Bhoria, Mohammed Hussamuddin, Nishant Dev win World Championship bronze

India’s Deepak Bhoria won bronze after losing in the semifinal of the men’s flyweight (48-51 kg) division in the 2023 World Boxing Championships to France’s Billal Bennama.

India have finished with three bronze medals in this tournament, with Nishant Dev losing to Kazakhstan’s Aslanbek Shymbergenov in the 71kg semifinal. Earlier, Mohammed Hussamuddin withdrew from his 57kg semifinal after suffering a knee injury.

In the flyweight semi, Bennama started on the front foot, landing a few tentative punches in the opening minute as the two boxers danced around each other. Bennama then landed a superb uppercut which was immediately responded to with a left hook from Deepak. Bennama then connected with a superb right-fake, left-jab combo. Deepak retaliated with a superb right hook, but Bennama continued to dance in and out, tantalizingly out of reach of the Indian. He took the first round on a 3-2 split.

Deepak, knowing he needed to force the issue in the start, started aggressively early. A flurry of punches was soon followed with his trademark left hook, but Bennama’s ring movement continued to pull Deepak into spaces he didn’t seem comfortable in. On the counter, he landed a couple of straight arm jabs smack on Deepak’s face, before dancing out of Deepak’s range again. This was the two-time Worlds bronze medallist using his slight height advantage to perfection. Deepak, though, never gave in – connecting with a few right crosses before catching Bennama brilliantly right on the bell. This gave the Indian the advantage, and Deepak to round two on a 3-2 split.

The third round, starting on an even keel, was a thrill-a-second affair. Deepak landed his punches early, snapping Bennama’s head back with a sensational left-right combo which saw the referee start a eight-count. Knowing he was on the backfoot, the Frenchman went on the offensive where he landed a superb left-right combo of his own on Deepak’s jaw. The bout ended at breakneck pace, with both Bennama and Deepak landing solid blows in the very last seconds of the semifinal.

The bout was so close that the judges went to ’bout review’ where the bout observer and evaluator had to weight in… and they gave Bennama the win on split decision.

Meanwhile, Mohammed Hussamuddin finished with a bronze medal at the 2023 Men’s Boxing World Championships after having withdrawn from participating in the 57kg semifinal against Saidel Horta Rodriguez Del-Rey of Cuba due to an injury.

The Boxing Federation of India said, in a statement, that “he had a knee injury in the last bout after which he had pain and swelling. After careful and detailed assessment by medical team, team management have decided that he won’t take part in the semi final bout which is to take place today as he doesn’t want the injury to aggravate rather recover for future competitions.”

The 29-year-old boxer from Telangana had suffered a similar fate at the 2022 Asian Championships, where a cut above his eye failed to heal in time for his semifinal necessitating his withdrawal against 2021 Worlds silver medallist Serik Temirzhanov of Kazakhstan (whom Saidel Horta beat in the quarterfinal).

Hussamuddin had progressed to the semifinal bout after defeating Javier Ibanez Diaz of Cuba in the quarterfinal by a 4-3 split decision (after bout review), thus earning a bronze on his World’s debut. Post his win over Diaz, the Indian national champion had noted his aim to bring home the gold, saying “I am feeling really great after securing a medal for India and now I am just two steps away from a gold medal. I am confident that I will win the gold in this tournament.”

However, injury has intervened once more to deny Hussamuddin his shot at gold. Yet, his achievement remains creditable: he has now made it three consecutive bronze medals in high-profile international events — the 2022 Commonwealth Games, the 2022 Asian Championships and the 2023 World Championships, underlining his consistency and form. The Indian boxer will hope this continues into the Asian Games later this year, where he will have his eye on another medal.

Nishant Dev earned a bronze medal on his Worlds debut, losing to 2018 Asian Games silver medallist, Aslanbek Shymbergenov of Kazakhstan, by a split decision (5-2 after bout review) in the semifinal of the 71 kg division.

Despite the crowd chanting Aslanbek’s name, Nishant Dev did not seem overawed at all, connecting with a few early jabs. With the pair indulging in a circumspect bout, the orthodox Kazakh boxer used the contrast in their respective stances to land a few right hooks, but Nishant responded with a superb 1-2 counterpunch that rattled Aslanbek. Yet, the experienced boxer kept his head to land some quality punches, taking the first round 3-2.

Aslanbek’s right hook came to the fore in the second round, with Nishant leaving himself open as he opted for a more aggressive approach. The Kazakh boxer’s speed worked against him as Nishant weaved out of the way, leaving Aslanbek with his back to his opponent midway. However, the Indian had a couple of right hooks connect well, but at the end of the round it was still 3-2 in Aslanbek’s favour.

Both boxers went for the kill in the final round, trading blows as Nishant’s right hook rattled his opponent’s chin a few times, but Aslanbek ensured there was always a counterpunch on the way. The fight devolved into a flurry of punches towards the end with both searching for a telling blow, but failing to land a definitive winner. Nishant had kept it close enough and held his own against his much-vaunted opponent, with the result being a bout review after the final round. Yet, both the observer and evaluator ruled in Aslanbek’s favour, leading to a 5-2 scoreline in the Kazakh boxer’s favour, with Nishant left ashen-faced in disappointment as the result was announced.

After the heartbreak of losing out on a medal in the 2021 World Championships though, this was quite the redemption for the 22-year-old boxer with his maiden bronze.

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