Cold-shouldered country girl and factory worker in fight of her life | Page 2 | Sunday Observer

Cold-shouldered country girl and factory worker in fight of her life

10 October, 2021
Kaumini Hashini: Hungry to fight for glory
Kaumini Hashini: Hungry to fight for glory

Sri Lankan boxing promoters Rozairo and Rathnapala extend an opportunity of a lifetime to the likes of Kaumini Hashini:

A young lass from Pilimathalawa, Kaumini Hashini is poised to create history as Sri Lanka’s first woman boxing professional after being selected to fight in the ‘Countdown to the Middle-East Crown’ series in Dubai in December.

Kaumini displayed tremendous potential since becoming the first schoolgirl pugilist from Pilimathalawa MMV, carrying all before her and winning several Best Boxer awards. She had dreams of representing Sri Lanka at the Olympics but fell out of favour with the authorities after her brief foray into the martial art of Muay Thai.

Dropping out from school after passing her O/Ls, she had a burning desire to fight for glory even as her destitute family struggled to stay above the poverty line. Representing Slimline BC, she built up an impressive career record being virtually unbeaten in the fly weight (51kg) category but was denied the opportunity of reaching her full potential. After her boxing career ended prematurely, the roadblocks in her life continued as she desperately looked for a job for survival.

Third in a family of three, to add to their woes her two elder brothers did not have permanent jobs. She was the breadwinner in the family. About two years ago, she managed to get employment as a factory worker at MAS Active Contourline in Pallekele. Although she wanted to continue boxing, working day and night shifts made it impossible for her to do sports.

However, her passion for boxing has been rekindled after an offer to fight in a professional boxing tournament in Dubai by two Sri Lankans, Dunstan Rozairo, founder of DJMC Events in Dubai who is the main architect and promoter of the ‘Countdown to the Middle-East Crown’ series, and Bandula Rathnapala.

The two former boxers of St. Mary’s College in Dehiwela have opened the pathway for Sri Lankan boxers to turn professional in the Middle East series. A former Kingswood and Sri Lanka pugilist Tharindu Roshan made an impressive debut in the second event of the series in September which spurred the organisers to invite two more Sri Lankans for the third event in December.

Another former Kingswood boxer Niraj Wijewardena is also slated to feature on the card, according to Rathnapala, who runs Jersey Boy Club/ Straight Jab Boxing Club in New Jersey, USA.

Kaumini Hashini who has lost only one local fight in her career spanning 17 bouts from 2013 to 2019, is ready to fight for her livelihood in the ring after her dreams of representing Sri Lanka in the Olympics was shattered after she had her sporting priorities mixed up. She was frowned upon as a rebel after she took part in a Thai boxing meet where she defeated an Army opponent to win the gold medal. “I just took part for the fun of it,” said Kaumini, who was barred from local boxing competitions for some time.

Nonetheless, Atanakittalage Kaumini Hashini Gamage, who turned 24 yesterday (October 9), is determined to pick up the pieces from her promising career by grabbing the opportunity to fight as a professional. Having endured many hardships in her life and disappointments in the peak of her career, even languishing at home without boxing training for a year because of issues between coaches at her club, Kaumini is ready for the fight of her life in a couple of months.

“It is difficult to practice boxing while doing night shifts because there is no time for recovery,” she said but these difficulties are minor compared to the obstacles she has faced in her life.

She is fighting a race against time to regain her sharpness and become physically fit for her maiden professional bout although she has maintained her body weight at 51kg. She is training in Kandy under St. Sylvester’s College coach Bandula Gamage of Police boxing.

It was Dinesh Steven Priyankara who spotted her talent first as a schoolgirl at Pilimathalawa Central College.

She proved to be a special talent and different from the rest, being unbeaten in inter-school competitions. “In my first meet I beat an experienced boxer from Veyangoda who had been unbeaten for four years,” recalled Kaumini who has not looked back since.

She won the gold medal in the All Island Youth National Games in 2013 and was adjudged the Best Boxer in four consecutive tournaments. Kaumini went on to become the first schoolgirl to represent Sri Lanka at the AIBA Women Junior/ Youth World Boxing Championship in Taipei in 2015.

Her amateur career took off when she won the ABA Novices and Intermediate meets in 2016, carrying away the Best Boxer awards as well. She also won her weight at major local competitions such as the Layton Cup and Clifford Cup. But somehow her boxing career took a downward spiral after her Muay Thai experience in 2018, fading into oblivion after winning the Central Province meet the following year.

Kaumini Hashini is confident of fighting her way to glory. She has the hunger and burning desire to fulfill her ambitions as a professional.

“I believe I can do well in the international arena. I did not get opportunities as an amateur,” said Kaumini whose role model is 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Anusha Kodituwakku. “I used to watch her fights to get inspiration,” she said.

Kaumini’s story is typical of a sports star who has fallen by the wayside and is struggling to make ends meet with only medals to show after a promising boxing career.

“We want to give a life to these ‘retired’ boxers so they can earn a fortune as professionals and lead a respectable life after their amateur career is over instead of working in garment factories or driving a tuk-tuk,” said Rathnapala who has empathy for poor Sri Lankan boxers. Together with Dubai-based boxing promoter Rozairo, the likes of Kaumini have got an opportunity of a lifetime to showcase their skills on the international stage and continue to ply their trade when they are done fighting amateurs.