President's Cup: All you need to know about Mizoram's Nutlai Lalbiakkima, the newest Indian boxing star in town
Nutlai Lalbiakkima secured a berth in the President's Cup semis after a 4-1 result in the 49kg category bout against Olympic gold medallist and world No 1 Hasanboy Dusmatov.
Nutlai Lalbiakkima experienced what could possibly be a life-changing moment when he outpunched Hasanboy Dusmatov at the Kazakhstan President's Cup on Friday.
Lalbiakkima was a relatively unknown entity in the world of boxing until his victory in the quarter-final bout, which all but guarantees him a medal in the ongoing event. The 22-year-old boxer from Mizoram would relish his victory over Dusmatov all the more given the fact that he just conquered an Olympic champion — Dusmatov having emerged gold medallist in the light flyweight category in the 2016 Rio Games, as well as the World No 1.
Lalbiakkima secured a berth in the semis after a 4-1 result in the 49kg category bout against the Uzbek pugilist. Dusmatov, who beat Colombia's Yuberjen Martinez in the gold medal match of the Rio event, had been a silver medallist in last year's World Championships in the same category, losing to Cuban boxer Joahnys Argilagos. On the other hand, the best performance of Lalbiakkima was a bronze medal in the 2017 senior national championships at Visakhapatnam.
Lalbiakkima certainly did his homework on the more-fancied opponent of his, having watched numerous videos to analyse Dusmatov before entering the squared circle.
"I have watched all his (Dusmatov) videos and it's a very special win tonight. I used speed along with counter punches & well-judged guard to sideline the champion boxer," the 22-year-old was quoted as saying according to a report on the Times of India.
Lalbiakkima hails from the village of Siaha, not very far from the state capital Aizawl. Born in a family with a humble background, with his mother being the breadwinner for the household by selling fish at the local market, life wasn't exactly easy for him. Boxing doesn't quite have the kind of following in Mizoram as it does in the neighbouring Manipur, which has produced superstars such as MC Mary Kom, and he had to contend himself by fighting in the semi-professional leagues in the state capital, according to ESPN.
He joined the Mizoram Regional Sports Authority Centre in 2011, where he would become a full-time resident a year later by shifting base to the hostel. It was in the 2015 senior nationals when his spirited performances got the attention of Navy coaches, upon whose recommendation he shifted to Navy Nagar in Colaba, Mumbai.
It was here that he came in contact with the Navy head coach and 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Suranjoy Singh. Suranjoy, who was referred to as 'Little Tyson', became something of an idol for young 'Kima'.
"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," said Suranjoy according to the ESPN report, describing the first time he came across the five-feet two-inch boxer.
Lalbiakkima lost out on a ticket to Gold Coast earlier this year when he lost to Amit Panghal in the India Open semi-finals that took place in New Delhi in February. The light flyweight category is a highly competitive one in Indian boxing, with names such as Shyam Kumar Kakara and Himanshu Sharma also making news in the category aside from 'Kima'.
However, his victory over Dusmatov has all but guaranteed him a place in the boxing team for the Asian Games that takes place in Indonesia in the months of August and September later this year. And that's the one event where he has the chance to transform his status from that of a dark horse to a star.
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