Asian Games: Steady jabs from Deepak Bhoria wear out Malaysian Qaiyum as he enters Round of 16

Deepak Bhoria’s fast hands helped him get out of a tricky situation on Monday as the Indian 51 kg boxer prevailed over Malaysia’s Muhammad Abdul Qaiyum to progress to the Round of 16 at the Hangzhou Asian Games. Also progressing to the next round was India’s Nishant Dev, who beat Nepal’s Dipesh Lama but Arundhati Chaudhary went down to Chinese World Champion Yang Liu in the women’s 66kg category and missed out on an Olympic quota.

After finding success at the World Championships, Bhoria has continued on as India’s 51kg entrant for major events and has seemed to completely displace former World Championship silver medallist Amit Panghal – who appealed the decision to send Bhoria to the Asian Games over him and lost in court.

On Monday, the Hisar boxer found himself in front of a potential banana peel in Malaysia’s Qaiyum and just the opening stages of the first round was enough to know that this wouldn’t be an easy one for the Indian.

Qaiyum showed that he wasn’t afraid of Bhoria’s punches, often letting the Indian unleash a shot before letting his own hands fly. A couple of those opening exchanges may have seen both boxers trade shots, but it felt like Qaiyum was getting the better of those exchanges with slightly cleaner shots, as well as the optics of being the last one to go in their exchanges.

But the 26-year-old switched tactics immediately, waiting for Qaiyum to swing. Those punches would be dodged and then Bhoria would land his own shots and close out the first round with all judges scoring it 10-9 in his favour. It was the second round, where he really got troubled.

Qaiyum came swinging out of the gates, just as he had at the start of the first. He caught Bhoria with a wild, looping right to the body before depositing a punch to his opponent’s face. While in the previous round the Indian would retreat and allow the opportunity of a counter to show itself, here the Malaysian amped the speed of his attacks up and left his opponent with very little time to conjure any defence. The result – Bhoria was getting tagged early into the second and not giving much of a response back.

Later in the round, he managed to catch Qaiyum with a couple of jabs but wasn’t really able to deal any significant damage. Yet barring one judge, all of them gave the round to Bhoria, who despite damage or volume, managed to convince four judges that he won that round.

In the third it was clear that the Malaysian had spent quite some energy and was tired. And that was cue for the Worlds bronze medallist to take the fight away from him. Bhoria eased his pace but still kept a steady volume of jabs coming and kept racking the points up. Eventually that last round kept the fight in his corner only and the judges scored the fight 30-27, 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 for the win.

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He will next likely face Tsuboi Tomoya, a Japanese boxer who won the 54kg World Championship in 2021 and has come down a weight class ahead of the Paris Olympics.

In the other bouts of the day, Nishant Dev eased to a win over Dipesh Lama. While Lama was solid in his combinations, Dev’s range was just too much for his opponent who got tagged multiple times and went through eight counts in the second and third round before the match ended in a unanimous decision for the Indian bronze medallist at the 2023 Worlds.

Arundhati Chaudhary’s loss to Liu was not unexpected as the bout was one of the toughest an Indian would have to face in the first round after the lack of seedings meant lopsided brackets. By no means was Chaudhary a boxer who would exit in the first round of the tournament but at these Asian Games, against as good a boxer as Liu, the debutant simply couldn’t match up.

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