Sri Lanka’s knockout specialist Army’s Weerakkodi overlooked for SAG | Daily News


 

Boxing selections mired in controversy with fresh trial being held to pick Fly weight

Sri Lanka’s knockout specialist Army’s Weerakkodi overlooked for SAG

The Sri Lanka boxing team for South Asian Games - Seated (from left): Chamila Abeyratne, Amila Aravinda Tissera, Aubrey Peiris (manager), Sampath Jayathillaka, Ravindra Wekadapola; First row (from left): K.V.L. Eranda, A.A. Kosala Nilmini, Sajeewani Cooray, Keshani Hansika, Nadeeka Pushpakumari, Krishmi Ayoma Dulanjani Dharmathilaka, M.P.G. Sajeewa Nuwan; Back row (from left): Nuwan Amarawansha, Dinesh Maduranga, Buwanaka Tillekeratne, Neil Hettiarachchi, Dinidu Saparamadu, W.A.R. Sandakelum, Vimukthi Kumara.

Sri Lanka is expecting a rich harvest of medals in boxing at the forthcoming South Asian Games (SAG) in Kathmandu but a fresh trial to select the men's Fly weight (52kg) representative later this week raises questions about the selection criteria of the Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL).

The 14-member Sri Lanka boxing team, including nine men and five women, will be making a bid to cover themselves in glory in Nepal but some of the best medal prospects may be kicking their heels at home instead of battling in the ring.


Ruwan Thilina Weerakkodi bounced back from a nasty eye cut to knock out his opponent in the final of the Bantam weight at the 45th National Sports Festival in Badulla.     

Reigning national Bantam weight (56kg) champion Ruwan Tilina Weerakkodi has fallen out of favour after failing to impress the national boxing selectors at a Selection Sparring Session conducted by the BASL among National poolists to pick their final squad for the SAG. It was quite novel and unique in a sense because the bouts were ‘judged’ by the selectors comprising General (retd) Jagath Jayasuriya (chairman), Udeni Kiridena, Susantha Weerasena and Olympian Anuruddha Rathnayaka, with the final winner not being officially declared since the selectors did not wish to go by the verdict of the judges alone. Their main priority apart from evaluating the technical skills and ringcraft of the boxers was whether they have medal-winning potential at international level. Although SAG is the lowest-tier competition in the region, Sri Lanka's selectors wanted to ensure quality not quantity.

However, despite their good intentions, even the best laid plans of men and mice could go awry. For instance many eyebrows were raised when the selection session was held just a week prior to the Clifford Cup Championships, throwing a spanner in the training schedule of boxers preparing for the second major event in the calendar. That may be one reason why Weerakkodi, 31, looked out of sorts in the final against Nuwan Amarawansha, 23, a two-time Stubbs champion from Peradeniya, who got the nod of the selectors. Army's knockout specialist Weerakkodi a silver medallist at the SAG in 2016, has demolished all opposition to win his weight class at the Layton Cup, Clifford Cup and National Sports Festival but one bad day has left him staring forlornly at the barrel wondering what he did wrong not to get selected.

Weerakkodi has not got another chance to prove his credentials unlike the trio of Murukkuwa Roshan Sandaruwan, Ishan Sanjaya Bandara and Gayan Indika Bandara who will be challenging Lasindu Eranda for the right to represent Sri Lanka in the Fly weight at SAG.

Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Ishan Bandara has been dominating the men’s flyweight in the Sri Lankan national events since 2015 but the experienced Army boxer lost in the semi-finals of the Layton Cup to a young prospect K.V.L. Eranda who lost in the final to 25-year-old Sandaruwan. However, Eranda appears to have impressed the selectors during his final bout at the selection trial meet which Ishan Bandara was forced to skip recovering from a hand injury. Indonesian President's Cup bronze medallist Indika Bandara has been a revelation since moving up to the Fly weight class, with the stylish Navy pugilist sweeping to victory in the Clifford Cup adding to the selection quagmire for the BASL with just weeks to go for the Games.

There is no such confusion in the women's division except perhaps for the omission of Harshani Nisansala Sewwandi Thalgaspitiya who prevailed over experienced Air Force star Muthuthanthri Sajeewani Cooray in both the Layton and Clifford Cup championships but failed to impress the selectors in the trial meet. Cooray, a five-time national bantam weight champion, for her part is a rugged fighter losing to India's world number three at the Thailand Open. Thalgaspitiya also may feel aggrieved at not being selected to represent Sri Lanka at SAG despite her successes against Cooray.

Nonetheless, the Sri Lankan management is confident of overhauling their previous SAG boxing medal haul of five silver and four bronze medals in India in 2016. “We are hoping to win at least three gold medals, five silver and two bronze medals,” declared Aubrey Peiris, vice president of the BASL who will accompany the team as manager. “We hope to conduct pool training for the boxers in Army and Slimline and subject to Sports Ministry approval hold a training camp in Bangkok a week before SAG,” said Peiris, a former president of the BASL.

The coaching staff will be headed by Amila Aravinda Tissera of Vidyarathane University College fame, a national level coach since 2012 with 25 years of experience. A 3-star coach, he has been to two World Championships, and was head coach when Sri Lanka won three bronze medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games last year. He will be assisted by 3-star coaches Chamila Abeyratne and Ravindra Wekadapola in addition to experienced Army coach and former national champion Sampath Jayathilaka.

Squad:

MEN

Light Fly weight (46kg) - M.P.G. Sanjeewa Nuwan, Fly weight (53kg) – K.V.L. Eranda, Bantam weight (56kg) – U.N.K. Amarawansha, Light weight (60kg) - N.B.A.J. Vimukthi Kumara, Light Welter weight (64kg) - P.V.D.D.D. Saparamadu, Welter weight (69kg) - N.M. Hettiarachchi, Middle weight (75kg) – P.D.D. Maduranga, Light Heavy weight (81kg) – W.A.R. Sandakelum, Super Heavy weight (91+kg) - A.R.B.E. Thilakarathna.

WOMEN

Light Fly weight (45-48kg) - Nadeeka Puspakumari, Fly weight (48-51kg) - A.A.K. Nilmini, Bantam weight (51-54kg) - M.P.P.S. Cooray, Feather weight (54-57kg) - K.A.D. Dharmatilleke, Light weight (57-60kg) – K.A.K. Hansika.

Manager: Aubrey Peiris (manager), Coaches: Amila Aravinda Tissera, Sampath Jayathilaka, Chamila Abeyratne and Ravindra Wekadapola.


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